By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Blake Wheeler had a feeling the Winnipeg Jets would benefit from their 11-day break between games. He was right.
Wheeler scored twice and added an assist as the refreshed Jets defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Saturday night.
“The last two days of practice we had a lot of life in practice so you could sense we would come out with some good jump tonight,” said Wheeler, who scored his 13th goal of the season in the second period and put his 14th into an empty net.
Fresh off his first appearance at the NHL all-star game, defenceman Josh Morrissey scored once and added a helper for the Jets, who won their second straight and improved to 33-19-1.
Connor Hellebuyck made 31 saves for Winnipeg, which swept its four-game season series against Chicago.
“I think they’ve got a lot of goal scorers over there and they were pushing the pace on us a little bit, trying to get us on our heels,” Hellebuyck said of the visitors.
“We didn’t break, and that’s the NHL right there. You gotta weather the storm and then you take it back to them, which we did.”
Tyler Johnson scored for the Blackhawks (16-30-5), who were coming off a 4-3 overtime win Friday at home against Arizona.
Petr Mrazek stopped 24 shots for Chicago, which began a four-game road trip.
“They’re a very talented team offensively,” Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said of the Jets.
“The couple mistakes we made in the second period, they really capitalized on. But I loved our first period, the way we skated and played, and I really liked our push in the third.”
There was no scoring in the first period, which featured a fast pace from puck drop and a stretch of just over six minutes without a whistle. The second stoppage came at 6:39 after a shot by Jets’ centre Pierre-Luc Dubois knocked off Mrazek’s helmet.
Chicago had the period’s only power play but didn’t get a shot on goal, although it finished the period up 10-6 on shots.
Morrissey opened the scoring at 1:16 of the second period with an unassisted backhand shot from the high slot.
The Blackhawks had a second power play, but got into penalty trouble before it was over.
Johnson was called for tripping, followed quickly by Sam Lafferty getting a double minor for high sticking.
The Jets took advantage during the five-on-four when Kyle Connor fired a one-timer at the net and the puck went in off Wheeler’s skate at 7:33.
Scheifele made it 3-0 with a one-timer at 12:19 after Wheeler sent him a quick pass to the high slot.
Chicago had its third man advantage late in the period, but came up empty on three shots at Hellebuyck.
“I thought Winnipeg killed well,” Johnson said. “We tried a few different things that they forced us to do and it just didn’t work out for us. We’ve got to try to create a little bit more as a unit.”
Johnson wiped Chicago’s zero off the scoreboard after he reached out his stick and swept a loose puck around Hellebuyck’s skate at 2:08 of the third period.
The Blackhawks ramped up their energy after the goal, but the Jets tightened up on defence.
“After they scored that first goal you knew they were going to make a big push — they were coming,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness.
“We bent a little bit too much, and when you bend a little bit too much like that you need big saves and (Hellebuyck) certainly did that for us tonight.”
Mrazek was pulled for the extra attacker with three minutes remaining, but Hellebuyck smothered a close-in shot and Wheeler scored into the empty net with 25 seconds left.
Winnipeg is 14-4-0 against their Central Division foes this season, which is tops in the division.
The Jets have also won nine of their past 10 games against division rivals.
Jets: Host the Seattle Kraken on Tuesday.
Blackhawks: Travel to Montreal to play the Canadiens on Tuesday.