The Winnipeg Jets have gave their still-at-home fans plenty to cheer about through most of the season, but not much at all down the stretch.
It’s easy to forget that for the first four-fifths of the season, the Jets played quite well and were actually in contention for first place in the North Division just a month ago. Their strong play earlier in the season provided them enough insulation to capture a playoff spot despite winning only three of their final dozen games.
Before their late-season struggles, the Jets played a number of electric and exciting games. Here, we’ll take a look at their top five.
5) Laine Stars in Season Opener and Final Game as a Jet – Jan. 21, 2021
This game was partially exciting simply because hockey was back after a four-month hiatus, but also because Patrik Laine put on a show.
It seems like an eternity ago that Laine was a Jet or even a relevant NHLer, but the sniper — who ruffled feathers in training camp when he would not deny that his agent said a trade out of Winnipeg would be best for his client — had quite the performance against the Calgary Flames on Jan. 14.
After Matthew Tkachuk opened the scoring, Laine tied the game with a breakaway goal. In the third period, he had the primary assist on a Kyle Connor power play marker that knotted the game 3-3 with less than five minutes to go, threading the needle with a great seam pass so Connor could one-time the puck home.
But Laine saved his best for last, going end-to-end in overtime and ripping the puck blocker-side past Jacob Markstrom after a brief bobble to lift the Jets to victory.
That overtime shift ended up being his final one as a Jet. Just nine days later, he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets in an early-season blockbuster that brought Pierre-Luc Dubois to Winnipeg.
4) A New Player Makes a Strong Impression – Feb. 21, 2021
After arriving in Winnipeg, Pierre-Luc Dubois had to self-isolate for two weeks due to the Canadian government’s strict quarantine policy for out-of-country arrivers.
Dubois’ first two games, on Feb. 9 and Feb. 11, were nothing notable, and then he got injured and missed the next four. But when he finally played his third game with the Jets — on Feb. 21 against the Canucks — he showed just how good he can be.
He scored his first as a Jet in the second period to cut a Vancouver lead from 2-0 to 2-1 on a one-timer from Blake Wheeler. Then, in the third period with the game tied, he recorded his first assist with the team by putting the puck on a tee for Neal Pionk’s power play blast.
The Canucks tied the game in the final minute, but Dubois made sure the ensuing extra frame didn’t last long. Out with Mark Scheifele and Wheeler to begin three-on-three, he scored a highlight-reel winner.
He took the puck from Scheifele, intentionally hesitated for a split second before turning on the burners, made a power move to get around Brock Boeser, drove the net, and roofed the puck over Holtby’s shoulder.
Fans and Jets’ brass alike would like Dubois to exhibit the play-driving skill he did in this game more consistently next season. He was ice-cold down the stretch, going pointless in his last nine games and finishing with an underwhelming 20.
3) Ehlers, Copp, Pile Up Four Points Each in Early-Season Track Meet – Jan. 26, 2021
Nikolaj Ehlers was the best Jets’ forward this season, recording 21 goals and 25 assists in 47 games and giving his opponents fits on a nightly basis with his speed and creativity before missing the final nine games with an upper-body injury.
The dynamic Dane entered this early-season matchup with the Edmonton Oilers on a four-game point streak and did his heater ever continue as he racked up a goal and three assists.
Responsible forward and defensive specialist Andrew Copp was not to be outdone, however, racking up four points of his own with two goals and two assists. It was the first time Copp truly flashed his added offensive flair in a season he’d end up recording career-highs in goals with 15 and assists with 24.
Ehlers had a secondary assist on Copp’s first-period power play marker to tie the game 1-1, and Copp had the same on Ehlers’ third-period goal that tied the game 3-1. Then, both players had assists on Paul Stastny’s goal a few minutes later that put the Jets up 4-3. Talk about a balanced attack.
With Ehlers already having four points, Copp scored an empty-netter to match his teammates’ output and cement the first four-point performance of his career.
2) Jets Explode in Second Period at Bell Centre – April 10, 2021
This game, the back-half of a two-game set with the Montreal Canadiens — was simply one of the most entertaining of the whole season. The Jets soared like they did in the 2017-18 season when they often turned a game on its head in a matter of minutes with their offensive prowess.
Indeed, it was a vintage performance, with the Jets exploding for three goals in the back-half of the second period to turn a 0-0 deadlock into a big lead.
After a fairly boring first 30 minutes, Paul Stastny opened the scoring by capitalizing on misplays by goalie Jake Allen and defenseman Jeff Petry. Ehlers followed up the goal with a power play bullet with 3:03 left, and then unlikely sniper Derek Forbort executed a top-shelf, short-side snipe in the final minute of the frame.
In the third period, Copp hooked up with Pionk and Ehlers on a slick tic-tac-toe power play goal before Mathieu Perreault rounded out the scoring by snatching the puck from Shea Weber and whacking it home in one motion.
Connor Hellebuyck locked it down the rest of the way — not that that was that difficult since he only faced 19 shots all game — for the Jets’ 2.0’s first-ever shutout in Montreal.
1) Copp Racks up Four Goals Against the Canucks – March 24, 2021
Once again, the firepower Andrew Copp he worked hard to add to his game was on full display in this contest against the Canucks, when he potted four goals in his team’s dominant 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
First. he scored on a deft power play tip-in. Then, on another power play, he whacked in a rebound off a Nikolaj Ehlers shot.
He achieved his first-career hat trick with an empty-netter with 4:10 to go. But he wasn’t satisfied, scoring his fourth on a Mason Appleton rebound with 2:26 left.
HIs offensive explosion not only made the Jets happy, but also Winnipegger Marcela Chartrand, who won $100,000 in the Save-On-Foods Million Dollar Score and Win challenge.
The only thing that would have made the game — one of the Jets’ most complete performances of the season — better was a second-straight shutout for Connor Hellebuyck, but he allowed a goal with 1:25 to go to Nils Hoglander. (If you believe in jinxes, Jets’ TSN play-by-play man Dennis Beyak was to blame, mentioning the looming shutout just a few moments before the red light flashed.)
Which game of these five did you find the most exciting? Were there any others games not on our list that stick out in your mind? Comment below!
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.