By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t showing his age when he made 31 saves in the Chicago Blackhawks’ 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday.
The 37-year-old netminder impressed his teammates, and his opponents, with his moves and wily ways in his 18th season.
“His flexibility is insane,” Chicago defenceman Connor Murphy said. “Some of those saves he can make, where the puck seems to be looking like it’s going one way and it changes direction, or the guy makes a last-minute move where his body’s going one way and he can stick a leg out the other way.
“I don’t know how he stays so limber. I’m not going to call him old, but staying so limber throughout such a lengthy career is impressive.”
Alex DeBrincats’ 28th goal of the season beat Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck at 9:42 of the third period to break a 1-1 tie.
Patrick Kane had a goal and assist while Brandon Hagel scored an empty-netter for the Blackhawks (18-24-7), who notched their second win in their last six games (2-4-0).
Mark Scheifele scored for the Jets (20-18-8) and Hellebuyck stopped 21 of the 23 shots he faced.
“When (Fleury) gets into a groove, he’s a guy that can really steal the flow of the game and I think we could have made it a lot tougher on him,” Jets defenceman Nate Schmidt said.
Winnipeg, which was starting a four-game homestand, had a three-game point streak end (2-1-1).
There was no scoring in the first period and Chicago led 1-0 after the second.
Winnipeg outshot the Blackhawks 11-8 in the opening period.
The Jets had the period’s only power play, but Fleury turned aside two shots, including one from Winnipeg’s leading scorer Kyle Connor.
The Blackhawks picked up the pace in the second period and were rewarded with Kane’s 12th goal of the season.
Using Kirby Dach skating ahead of him as a bit of a screen, Kane snapped a low shot through Hellebuyck’s pads at 10:21.
Kane also had a shot sail wide of an open net and rang one off the crossbar.
Chicago had a power play early in the period but couldn’t get a shot on net.
Jets forward Adam Lowry got a short-handed breakaway, but Fleury appeared to throw his stick attempting a poke check and it hit Lowry’s stick to nix a good shot.
“I think I had him beat and his stick comes out and kind of gets in my way, but I still had a good chance to score,” Lowry said. “It would have been nice to put that one in and get us up but unfortunately it didn’t go in.”
There was skepticism that Fleury threw his stick on purpose and the Jets deserved a penalty shot, but Adam Lowry said he talked to referee Kevin Pollock.
“(Pollock) thought it was a poke check,” Lowry said. “I think it’s more of a strategic drop if you will.
“It’s one of those ones; you can’t fault the ref there. It’s a tough play, they’re coming from behind and stuff so it’s one of those things where you’d love to get the call.”
Winnipeg only had a 9-8 edge on shots in the middle frame.
Scheifele evened the score 1-1 at 6:17 of the third when he banged in a puck that had bounced off a player and landed at the side of the crease.
DeBrincat took back the lead at 9:42 and Hagel added to it at 19:04.
Winnipeg hosts the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday and will be allowed a full-capacity crowd under health restrictions that relax Tuesday. Chicago hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.