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Connor Hellebuyck stars in third shutout of the season as Jets beat Wild 2-0

WINNIPEG — Connor Hellebuyck was feeling pretty good after accomplishing something no other goalie has done against the Minnesota Wild this season. Hellebuyck made 27 saves as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Wild 2-0 on Tuesday.

WINNIPEG — Connor Hellebuyck was feeling pretty good after accomplishing something no other goalie has done against the Minnesota Wild this season. 

Hellebuyck made 27 saves as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Wild 2-0 on Tuesday. It was the first time Minnesota had been shut out, plus it halted the club’s six-game win streak and 10-game point run.

It was Hellebuyck’s third shutout this season and 27th of his career.

“(Teammate Adam Lowry) had some huge fights, got our momentum going,” Hellebuyck said. “The crowd was there, or at least half of them, so that was an exciting game to play.” 

Mark Scheifele scored a power-play goal and Nate Schmidt contributed an empty-netter. Kyle Connor had a pair of assists. 

The Jets (19-17-7) were cheered by 7,012 fans after Manitoba COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed Tuesday to allow 50 per cent capacity at Canada Life Centre. Capacity is just over 15,300.

Kaapo Kahkonen stopped 27 shots for Minnesota (28-11-4), which entered the game on a season-high 10-game point streak (9-1-1). A season-best six-game point streak on the road also ended (5-1-1).

“We didn’t get to our game,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “I was going to say we didn’t get it quick enough, but I don’t think we got to it at all.

“We had offensive zone time. Pucks were bouncing, but we didn’t get to the net like we should have. There was a pile of rebounds there. (The Jets) did a real good job of collapsing, protecting the slot and we didn’t do a good enough job of having more will to get to that area for us that we normally do.”

Winnipeg is now 3-6-2 in its last 11 games.

“I think it’s playing start to finish,” Jets coach Dave Lowry said. “That’s the biggest thing.

“We all know that this is a tough division to win in. When you look at the style and you look at the teams, this is the way you have to play. You have to play start to finish and usually the games are physical.”

The Jets led 1-0 after a fast, heavy-hitting first period and kept it scoreless until the second.

Scheifele scored his 11th goal of the season during Winnipeg’s second power play of the opening period at 8:57. 

The man advantage came after simultaneous fights at centre ice between Jets defenceman Brenden Dillon and Wild forward Jordan Greenway, and Winnipeg forward Adam Lowry and Minnesota forward Marcus Foligno. Greenway picked up extra time in the penalty box for roughing.

Brenden Dillon hit Foligno after he had shot the puck with Greenway going in to defend Foligno and Lowry following suit.

“I see Foligno kind of going into jump in and I'm just trying to do my part and help (Dillon) out,” Lowry said.

Evason viewed it a lot differently – and dangerously.

“If you watch the hit, (Foligno) releases the puck, he takes three strides and then gets blindsided,” Evason said. 

“If you’re a hockey player, you’re not expecting to get hammered from the backside like that. I mean, that’s the hit that we don’t want in the game, you know – blind, has no idea it’s coming, extremely late. That’s not a hockey hit. If he has the puck and whatever, maybe, but even still it’s so blindsided.” 

Lowry and Foligno, who returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury, had another slugfest with 8:54 left in the period. Both ended up on the ice.

Foligno got an added penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct when he kneed Lowry in the head.

“Maybe I got my leg in there or something, but that was just me kind of ticked-off and trying to get at him,” Foligno said. “There was no intent to, you know, not throw with your fist or use another body part in there.”

Winnipeg outshot the visitors 10-6 in the second period.

Hellebuyck was the difference-maker in the period, stopping 11 shots.

Shots on goal were 17 apiece after the middle frame.

Kahkonen took his turn in the spotlight early in the third, stopping Scheifele on a breakaway. He then turned aside three shots when Winnipeg got its third power play of the game.

He made three saves during Winnipeg’s fourth power play of the game.

Schmidt scored his third goal of the season with an empty-netter he shot from centre ice with 1:11 remaining. 

Jets top defenceman Neal Pionk and forwards Pierre-Luc Dubois and Austin Poganski missed the game due to the NHL's COVID-19 protocol.

It was the first game in a stretch that has the Jets playing 11 games in 20 days. They head to Dallas to take on the Stars Friday and play the Nashville Predators the next night.

Minnesota hosts the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2022.

Judy Owens, The Canadian Press