The Winnipeg Jets are making a habit of rising to the occasion when they play the Blackhawks.Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Drew Stafford scored and Connor Hellebuyck made 34 saves to help Winnipeg beat the Hawks 3-1 on Tuesday night.Jacob Trouba added two assists, and the Jets won their second straight and fourth in five games to improve to 17-17-3. Winnipeg beat the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks for the third time in three tries this season, outscoring the Blackhawks 9-2 over those games.
”They seem to bring out the best in us,” Wheeler said. ”We seem to bring our A-game when we come to this building.
”They’re sitting atop of our conference right now, won three (Stanley) Cups in whatever it is, seven years? We’re willing to grind it out for 60 minutes.”
The Jets outskated and outworked the swift, talented Blackhawks for much of the night, beating them to loose pucks. Then the scoring chances seemed to take care of themselves.
”When we come out and play Chicago, we don’t think about offense,” coach Paul Maurice said. ”We hit four or five posts tonight. That’s offense, but we play the game the right way, play it real hard.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville offered a simple explanation for the Jets’ success:
”They had more speed and had the puck a lot more than we did.”
Artem Anisimov scored his 15th goal in his return from missing three games with an upper-body injury, but the Blackhawks lost their third straight for the first time since last March.
”We just need to be sharper and bring our energy to the game and be dominant,” Anisimov said. ”We just need to find our emotions and get back on track.”
The Blackhawks consecutive defeats (0-2-1) have come at home, while surging Minnesota has cut into Hawks conference and Central Division leads.
”You look at the three games and there were some good stretches in all of them, but not what we were looking for on home ice,” Quenneville said. ”We gave away some valuable points in the standings.”
Corey Crawford blocked 31 shots in his second start since returning from an appendectomy that cost him 10 games.With an assist, the Blackhawks’ Artemi Panarin stretched his career-best points streak to eight games. He has five goals and 14 points during the run.Right wing Marian Hossa missed his second straight game after being placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 20. The 37-year-old forward, who leads the Blackhawks with 16 goals, has been out since getting an upper-body injury early in a loss to Ottawa a week ago.Both teams had several prime chances in the first period. While the Blackhawks shot wide several times, the Jets cashed in on two opportunities to build a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.Wheeler opened the scoring 8:27 in when he cut across the crease and popped in a rebound of Bryan Little’s deflection. Crawford reacted quickly to stop Little’s tip of Trouba’s drive from the point off a faceoff but couldn’t reset in time for Wheeler’s shot.Scheifele made it 2-0 with 5:12 left in the first with his 15th goal when he parked in front and deflected Trouba’s screened drive from the right point.Anisimov, who jumped right back onto his regular line with Patrick Kane and Panarin, clicked perfectly with Kane at 7:37 of the second to cut it to 2-1.Anisimov slipped down the slot and took Kane’s pinpoint pass from the right circle. He tucked in a shot with a quick forehand-to-backhand-to-forehand move just inches beyond Hellebuyck’s reach.Crawford stopped former Blackhawk Dustin Byfuglien on a breakaway with 4:38 left in the second to keep the Jets’ lead at one goal.Stafford scored at 2:27 of the third to make it 3-1 and end a 12-game drought. Following a turnover by rookie defenseman Gustav Forsling, Stafford took a long pass from Nic Petan, got past the defense and slid a shot under Crawford.
NOTES—Joel Quenneville said Hossa will probably miss Chicago’s next two games and will ”hopefully be ready to come back” when the Blackhawks face the St. Louis Blues in the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium on Jan. 2. … Winnipeg D Tyler Myers, out since Nov. 13 (lower body), missed his 21st game. Coach Paul Maurice said Tuesday that Myers would undergo another test this week and ”we’ll see when he gets back on the ice from there.” … Winnipeg’s scratches included LW Brandon Tanev, C Andrew Copp and RW Chris Thorburn. … The Hawks sat out D’s Michal Kempny and Michal Rozsival and RW Jordin Tootoo.
The Blackhawks begin a three-game trip at Nashville on Thursday night. The swing concludes with the Winter Classic in St. Louis.The Hawks are 1-3 in Outdorr Games,