By Jim Bender, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg forward Gabriel Vilardi has settled in nicely since returning to the lineup after a six-week absence due to a knee injury.
The forward continued his run of hot play Wednesday night by scoring a goal and adding two assists to lead the Jets to a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.
Vilardi, who returned on Nov. 30, has five goals and 10 points over his last four games.
“Unbelievable, smart player,” said linemate Nikolaj Ehlers. “To be able to come back after an injury like he had that early in the season and play the way he’s playing right now is – you know, I’ve been through it – it’s hard. But it’s really impressive and the work he does in the (offensive) zone behind their net, in the corners with his stick. His stickhandling is unbelievable.
“And obviously those passes that he makes, you know we just have to put it into the empty net pretty much. Makes our job a little easier. But as a line, we feel good, we read off each other really well and that’s exciting for us.”
Ehlers chipped in with a goal and an assist while linemate Mark Scheifele also scored.
Axel Jonnson-Fjallby, with a goal and an assist, and Neal Pionk also scored for Winnipeg, which moved into sole possession of top spot in the Central Division.
Patrick Kane and Olli Maatta replied for Detroit.
Goalie Laurent Brossoit stopped 26 of 28 shots for Winnipeg (19-9-3) before 12,571 fans at Canada Life Centre.
“I mean, LB (Brossoit), the games that he’s played, he’s been unbelievable,” Ehlers said. “Having two goalies that play the way they do every single night is pretty exciting, and it makes our job a little easier. The saves that he made are pretty impressive.”
James Reimer made 36 saves on 41 shots for Detroit (15-13-4).
It was the third of a four-game homestand for the Jets.
Jonsson-Fjallby, a fourth-liner, scored what proved to the winning goal on a breakaway midway through the middle period.
“I feel like we have been playing really good lately and we have had a lot of looks offensively,” he said. “So, it was nice to finally get rewarded.”
It was Detroit’s fourth straight loss.
“It’s spiralling right now,” said Wings defenceman Dylan Larkin. “It’s a lot of hockey, but we don’t make excuses. We had to come in here and find a way, and we didn’t. We found the opposite way.”
Scheifele iced the win with Winnipeg’s fifth goal at the 15:12 mark of the third period, converting a setup from Vilardi.
“If you look at the goals they scored today, they really didn’t have to work very hard for them,” said Detroit defenseman Moritz Seider. “We were just kind of giving Grade-A chances to them and obviously that will hurt you.”
Detroit signed former Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson to a one-year contract on Tuesday. Red Wings netminders Ville Husso and Alex Lyon are out with injuries. … The Jets have not allowed more than three goals in a game for a franchise-record 21 straight outings. … It was the 100th career game for both Jets forwards Cole Perfetti and David Gustafsson.
Jets: Will host the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.
Wings: Return home to host the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday.