By Jim Bender, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Kyle Connor is starting to break out of a mini-slump.
Connor completed his hat trick netting the game-winner with 53.5 seconds remaining to give the Winnipeg Jets a 3-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.
Connor, who scored 47 goals last season, converted a perfect pass from forward Mark Scheifele, snapping a shot past Ducks goaltender John Gibson for just his fifth goal this year.
“My game wasn’t too far off,” Connor said. “I put a little more emphasis of getting to the net tonight, just being around more pucks there. A couple of good plays by Scheif (Scheifele) and Gags (Sam Gagner) too.
“So, just put yourself in good situations, that’s all you can ask for. I wasn’t getting too frustrated through the first 10, 12, 13 games there.”
Winnipeg head coach Rick Bowness gave Connor his due for pushing through a quiet start to the season.
“That’s perseverance,” Bowness said. “That’s what goal scorers do. A goal scorer gets frustrated for two reasons — one, they’re not getting any chances. … The other part of it is, you’re getting chances and they’re not going in. Either way, you’ve got to stay in the fight.
“Give Kyle a lot of credit for staying in the fight tonight and really all year. He’s never stopped getting those chances. … He’s got one of the best releases in the league, without a doubt. He’s one of the best skaters. Eventually it has to come and it came at the right time for us tonight.”
Trevor Zegras, who knotted the score at 2-2 for Anaheim, blamed himself for the game winner.
“We played 59 good minutes,” he said. “I make a bad play on the wall and miss my guy going to the front of the net and the game’s over. I would say it’s kind of on me. There were some good things, some bad things. It’s getting old, for sure.”
“It’s really heartbreaking,” added Ducks coach Dallas Eakins. “We played a really solid team road game. We stood right in there, swinging, with one of the better teams in the league right now. And we had a missed puck-play and a missed assignment (in) the last minute and it cost us.”
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 29-of-31 shots for the Jets (10-4-1) before 14,278 fans at Canada Life Centre.
Troy Terry also scored for Anaheim (5-11-1). Gibson made 29 saves in the loss.
Zegras tied the score at 2-2 just 28 seconds after Connor gave Winnipeg a 2-1 edge in the third period. Adam Henrique set up Zegras, who lifted the puck up over Hellebuyck.
Connor scored after taking a pass from behind the net from Gagner at the 14:15 mark in the third period.
The Jets knotted the score at 1-1 on the power play 12:32 into the second period. With Ducks defenceman Dmitry Kulikov in the box for tripping, Connor pounced on a Pierre-Luc Dubois rebound at the side of the net and sent the puck over Gibson’s shoulder and into the net.
Anaheim opened the scoring midway through the first period. During a delayed penalty on Winnipeg’s Neal Pionk, Terry fired a shot from inside the blue line that eventually bounced past a screened Hellebuyck.
The Jets inducted Teemu Selanne and Teppo Numminen into their Hall of Fame in a jersey-unveiling ceremony before the game. Selanne, a.k.a. the “Finnish Flash,” scored 306 points (147 goals) in 231 games with the Jets in four seasons before being traded to Anaheim in late 1996.
Numminen played eight seasons in Winnipeg before moving to Phoenix with the franchise and played another seven years there. The defenceman, who also played for Dallas and Buffalo, finished with 637 points) 117 goals) in 1,372 NHL career games. The fans gave a raucous standing ovation to both, who appeared emotional. But neither one addressed the crowd.
Veteran defenceman Kyle Capobianco replaced Dylan DeMelo, who was out with an unidentified injury … The Jets called up defenceman Ville Heinola from the Manitoba Moose but he did not dress for the game … The Ducks have yet to win a game in regulation this season.
Jets: Will host the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second of a three-game homestand on Saturday.
Ducks: Will play the Blues in St. Louis on Saturday.