In a game that could have about 50 different headlines, the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Arizona Coyotes last night by a score of 5-2. The obvious place to start is the first career hat trick of young Nikolai Ehlers. Ehlers scored three before the end of the second period, including an absolutely ridiculous goal that he batted out of mid-air for his second of the night.
This game had a little bit of everything, from fisticuffs, to highlights, to low lights, the lucky 15,000 and change in attendance saw one of the best Jets games all season. The Jets win ended a three games slide, and a stretch that saw them lose six of their last eight and drop out of playoff contention for the time being. It was Winnipeg’s last game before the All Star break. The Jets will head into their mid-season vacation with a record of 22-24-3.
Winnipeg set the tone early. Just 4:12 into this game Anthony Peluso and Jarred Tinordi dropped the gloves. The final punch count was probably 25-1 and Peluso’s win signified what was to come for the rest of the game. You can see the fight here courtesy the guys over at Hockey Fights. It was only two minutes later that Ehlers opened the scoring, potting a rebound off a Blake Wheeler point shot on the power play giving Winnipeg a 1-0 lead. It took Ehlers just seven minutes to get back on the score sheet with one of the most impressive goals of the year. With Wheeler cutting in on the wing with the puck, Ehlers drove the net, making the play a 2 on 1. Wheeler tried to send the puck a cross but it appeared to be deflected by Coyotes defense-man Michael Stone. Ehlers took a swing at the waist high puck and though he did not drive it to the back of the net, he got enough to get it past Louis Domingue, the Coyotes goaltender, and over the goal line.
The night did not get any easier for Domingue as early in the second he made a blooper that will be likely be seen the rest of the year when a Dustin Byfuglien slap shot beat him from the neutral zone. Byfuglien picked up the puck in his own zone and approached the center ice. Cutting across the red line horizontally, it appeared Byfuglien was set to dump the puck in, but a quick shift of the body and a cheating goaltender had the Jets up 3-0. Domingue guessed wrong and while he tried to get back in position the puck slid beneath his pad and Winnipeg had a commanding lead.
Ehlers First Hat-Trick
At the 15 minute mark of the second period the young Dane made history for the Jets scoring his third on a laser of a wrist shot in the slot. Blake Wheeler earned his third assist of the game and the Jets appeared to have this one in the bag.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) January 27, 2016
It was only Winnipeg’s third hat-trick since the franchise relocated. Both Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault accomplished the feat last season, both at the MTS Centre. Ehlers became the second teenager in franchise history to score three goals in a game, joining Ilya Kovalchuk, and the first to do it in a Jets uniform since Dale Hawerchuk got three in February of 1983 against the Hartford Whalers.
Once the hats were cleaned up and celebration began to quiet the Coyotes got some life. Brad Richardson found a loose puck in front of the net and shoveled it over a sprawled Connor Hellebuyck making the score 4-1. Less than a minute later the Jets found themselves down two men after back-to-back penalties by Ben Chairot and Jacob Trouba. It was the chance the Coyotes needed to get back into it. It was not to be however as the Jets penalty kill went offensive getting two breakaway’s within seconds. Bryan Little was stopped on his opportunity, but Byfuglien made no mistake. After stealing the puck at his own blue line, Byfuglien went high blocker side on Domingue who took out his frustration on his stick and the goal post.
The third period was largely un-eventful, Anthony Duclair notched his 13th of the year in the final minute but it was far to late as the Jets took a 5-2 win into the All Star break. Wheeler and Byfuglien each joined Ehlers with three-point games, Byfuglien scoring twice and adding an assist, and Wheeler notching three helpers. The current Jets have not allowed the former Jets to win in Winnipeg since the relocation, going 6-0-0 at home against the Coyotes. This was the final meeting of the season for Winnipeg and Arizona as the home team won all three match-ups. Arizona took a 4-2 win home New Years Eve, while the Jets won the first meeting 3-2 in late November.