The Rick Bowness era in Winnipeg is off to a good start, though the new head coach wasn’t even in the building to see it.
The team announced the 67-year-old tested positive for COVID just a few hours before puck drop, but his team prevailed, pulling away late in a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers.
The Rangers would get the first great chance to score when Artemi Panarin stepped out of the penalty box and was sprung on a breakaway. He tried to go high on Connor Hellebuyck but the shot glanced off the shaft of Hellebuyck’s stick and floated over the net.
Not long after that, the home side got on the board thanks to the top line. Nikolaj Ehlers won a puck battle behind the Rangers net and fed it towards the slot. Kyle Connor let the pass go through his legs right to the stick of Mark Scheifele, who buried it past Jaroslav Halak for Winnipeg’s first goal of the season.
The Jets played with great pace in the opening 20 minutes, skating with fresh legs, powered by the adrenaline of a home opener against a team that just played the night before.
But in the second period, the visitors controlled the pace. Winnipeg got pinned in their own end for long stretches but Hellebuyck was a brick wall in net, stopping all 21 shots New York threw his way in the frame.
Just under four minutes into the third, the Rangers finally solved Hellebuyck. Dryden Hunt was left alone right in front of the Jets net, got a great pass from Vincent Trocheck and roofed it to tie the game.
Winnipeg would spend much of the period just holding on but with just 4:25 to go, their fourth line would give them the lead.
David Gustafsson won a battle behind the net, got the puck to Saku Maenalanen who found Sam Gagner alone on the doorstep. His first attempt was turned aside by Halak but he buried the rebound to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
Any hope of a Rangers comeback disappeared when former Jet Jacob Trouba took a delay-of-game penalty, leading to quite the reaction from the Winnipeg crowd.
Scheifele buried his second of the game on the ensuing power play to put the game away, finishing off a great feed from Pierre-Luc Dubois. Kyle Connor added an empty-netter with 20 seconds left for good measure.
Hellebuyck finished with a whopping 40 saves in the victory. Next up for the Jets is a date with the Stars in Dallas on Monday. Pregame show begins on 680 CJOB at 5:30 p.m., with puck drop just after 7:30 p.m.
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