By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Blake Wheeler wasn’t going to make too big of a deal about the Winnipeg Jets’ 5-0 victory over the reigning Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.
Wheeler, who recorded a hat trick and added an assist, was asked if it was a statement game for the Jets (14-6-1).
“I don’t know if I’d go that far,” replied Wheeler, who recorded his fourth career hat trick and first since a four-goal outing in a 5-2 win over Columbus on March 3, 2019.
“We’ve liked the way we’ve played. A little sluggish in the first period coming off the road, but kind of to be expected. We just want to continue to build our game and to perform obviously at home in front of our fans. Tonight was a good step in that direction.”
Connor Hellebuyck made 40 saves in his third shutout this season and 31st of his NHL career. The victory kicked off a four-game homestand at Canada Life Centre, where the Jets are 8-2-0 to start the season.
Mark Scheifele collected a goal and two assists and Josh Morrissey scored once and had an assist. Cole Perfetti contributed a trio of helpers.
“I think so,” Hellebuyck said when asked if it was the team’s most complete game this season. “Well, it’s hard to compare all of them.
“I thought we played a really good game. The details were right. I think we improved throughout the game and we really stuck to our game and we were patient. So, I mean, a lot of the things we wanted to do, we did.”
Alexandar Georgiev stopped 18 shots for Colorado (12-7-1), which began a four-game road trip. It was the second time this season the Avalanche have been shut out.
“We had some hard-working guys, but when you’re a short, depleted roster you can’t have any passengers and we just had too many of them tonight,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.
Winnipeg led 1-0 after the first period and 3-0 following the second.
Wheeler opened the game’s scoring at 9:18 of the first, beating Georgiev stick side 20 seconds into a power play.
Scheifele appeared to score at 2:05 of the second period, but Colorado made a successful coach’s challenge for goaltender interference by Wheeler and the goal was nixed.
Less than two minutes later, Morrissey blasted a point shot through traffic to make it 2-0 at 3:46.
Wheeler notched his sixth goal of the season at 13:07, taking advantage of a pass from Perfetti that put Georgiev out of position.
Colorado was outshooting the Jets 25-14 after the middle period.
“We obviously didn’t get enough traffic (to the front of the net),” Avalanche forward Andrew Cogliano said. “Some pucks were laying there and we weren’t doing a good enough job getting there enough.”
Scheifele recorded his 12th goal of the season after a quick pass across the front of the crease from Kyle Connor at 1:22 of the third.
Wheeler notched his third goal with 3:51 remaining when Perfetti sent him a backhand pass to the high slot.
“No, it’s not just another game,” Jets coach Rick Bowness replied to a reporter’s question. “I think the message we’re trying to send here is make them worry about us. They’re the defending Stanley Cup Champions, they’re a great hockey team.
“We’re starting to realize that when we play the right way, and we play the way we’re supposed to play, and play together, we’re a very good hockey club. The message is more about us and the way we want to play.”
Morrissey, who’s been jokingly called Josh ‘Norrissey’ by his teammates in reference to the Norris Trophy won by the league’s top defenceman, extended his point streak to five games with four goals and five assists during that span. He leads the Jets in scoring with 25 points in 21 games (five goals, 20 assists) and hasn’t gone more than one game this season without a point.
He was named the NHL’s second star of the week after firing in consecutive overtime winners last week and posting seven points (three goals, four assists) in four games.
END OF SOME STREAKS
Colorado forward Artturi Lehkonen didn’t add to his career-high, nine-game point streak. He had four goals and seven assists during the run, which was the longest point streak on the team this season.
The Avalanche, the league’s top power-play team heading into the contest, went 0-for-3 with the man advantage. They also ended a run of eight straight games with a power-play marker.
Jets: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.
Avalanche: Travel to play the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.