Home » The Canadian Press » Vilardi Steers Winnipeg Jets to 6-2 Win Over Avalanche

Vilardi Steers Winnipeg Jets to 6-2 Win Over Avalanche

December 16, 2023 9:40 PM | The Canadian Press


By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG — Alex Iafallo was waiting for good things to happen to end his 18-game goal-scoring drought. He got his wish Saturday.

Iafallo scored once and Gabriel Vilardi recorded a pair of goals as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Colorado Avalanche 6-2.

“Definitely, you think about it all the time,” said Iafallo, who also had an assist that halted a 13-game pointless skid.

“Obviously you want to chip in offensively, but sometimes you’ve just got to stick with it and try to play the right way and good things will happen. That’s kind of what I was going through the last few weeks, just trying to help as much as I can.”

Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikolaj Ehlers each had a goal and assist, Nino Niederreiter scored and Josh Morrissey and Mark Scheifele both registered a pair of helpers.

The Jets (18-9-2), who have won six of their past seven games, also set a franchise record by holding opponents to two or fewer goals in seven consecutive games.

Winnipeg is without sniper Kyle Connor (knee) for six to eight weeks.

“You’re not going to replace KC,” Namestnikov said. “It’s gotta be a team effort and everybody has to step their game up. I thought today was a complete team effort.”

Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves for Winnipeg, which started a four-game homestand at Canada Life Centre in front of 13,515 fans.

Jonathan Drouin and Jack Johnson scored for the Avalanche (18-1-2). Nathan MacKinnon picked up a pair of assists to extend his point streak to 14 games. He has six goals and 17 helpers in that span.

Ivan Prosvetov stopped 19 shots in his 10th game of the season for Colorado.

“It’s hard to say that you love a goalie’s performance when you lose 6-2, but he made a ton of big saves,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.

Defenceman Cale Makar was a late scratch with a lower-body injury. Bednar said he’ll be day to day.

“He’s been dealing with this for a little bit and playing through it and some days it’s better than others. Today he wasn’t able to go.”

The Jets led 2-0 after the first period and 3-0 following the second.

Vilardi scored at 13:56 of the opening frame after a quick pass across the front of the net from Scheifele gave him an open side to pop the puck into when Prosvetov couldn’t slide over fast enough.

“Big strong guy that’s hard to play against, but it’s his patience with the puck and his skill level is really, really underrated,” Jets coach Rick Bowness said of Vilardi.

Namestnikov made it 2-0 on the power play less than two minutes later with a deep-bending, straight-on shot from the slot. It broke a Winnipeg stretch of 0-for-17 with the man advantage.

Winnipeg couldn’t capitalize on a power play eight seconds into the second period, but Iafallo benefited from a bad Colorado pass attempt and scored at 8:43.

Avalanche defenceman Caleb Jones tried to make a long pass from behind the net, but Iafallo picked it off and used a high backhand shot to beat Prosvetov. Jones angrily smashed his stick on the crossbar.

“There was some poor decision-making,” Bednar said. “But I guess when you’re behind the eight ball right out of the gate because of lack of preparation or the way the other team comes out and we don’t match that enthusiasm, that competitiveness, that determination, then you feel like you’ve got to get yourself going so you’re trying to make something happen.

“I just think it was dead from the start tonight.”

Colorado went on the power play early in the third and Drouin used a rebound off the end boards and directed the puck into the side of the net at 2:07.

Vilardi notched his second of the game a minute-and-a-half after Drouin’s marker and Niederreiter scored his eighth of the season at 8:48.

“We had some momentum in the second, one bad break cost us, and they were just able to capitalize on the two chances they had in the third,” Prosvetov said.

Johnson’s wrist shot just under two minutes later made it 5-2 and Ehlers finished off the scoring into an empty net at 17:57.

NOTES

MacKinnon played his 739th game with the Avalanche, tying him for fifth place for most games in franchise history with long-term injured teammate Gabriel Landeskog. … The Jets celebrated South Asian Heritage night, highlighting athletes from the community for the ceremonial puck drop, while a youth choir sang the Canadian anthem in English and Punjabi — a first at a major professional sporting event.

UP NEXT

Avalanche: Host the San Jose Sharks Sunday night.

Jets: Host the Montreal Canadiens Monday night.

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