WINNIPEG — Josh Morrissey was glad Connor Hellebuyck was the last line of defence for the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
Hellebuyck made 29 saves to backstop Winnipeg to a much-needed 2-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.
The veteran netminder made a huge save early in the second period that drew loud cheers from 13,216 fans at Canada Life Centre.
After Nick Schmaltz’s shot hit the post, the puck was in play out front. Michael Kesselring then sent a backhand shot straight at the net but Hellebuyck, from the side of the crease, reached his stick out along the ice and redirected the puck away.
"Just another to add to his highlight reel, I guess,” said Morrissey, the team’s star blueliner. “He’s been incredible for us, certainly all year and for a long time.
“When they really had their push in the second, he made some massive saves and gave us a chance to regroup in the intermission and to come out in the third and play a lot better.”
Hellebuyck recorded his 31st victory in his 55th start of the season.
Nikolaj Ehlers and Adam Lowry scored for the Jets (40-29-3), who have only won two of their past five games.
The loss snapped Arizona’s four-game win streak and eight-game point streak (6-1-2).
Barrett Hayton scored for the Coyotes (27-33-11) and Karel Vejmelka stopped 23 shots.
“It’s a really good stretch of hockey for us,” Hayton said. “Coming out of the (trade) deadline, we really wanted to focus on our attitude and being able to turn the page quick there.
“The first game after the deadline we weren’t good at all and we learned from that quick and we went on that stretch. Obviously, our group is really happy with that but we want to keep it rolling.”
Winnipeg led 2-0 after the first period and 2-1 following the second.
Ehlers gave the Jets a rare first goal when he stole the puck after a bad Arizona pass attempt, skated in alone on Vejmelka and slapped in his own rebound at 4:17 of the first period.
Winnipeg went into the contest giving up the first goal in five straight games and nine of their previous 10.
Lowry notched a short-handed goal on a two-on-one with Morgan Barron at 11:33.
The Jets outshot the visitors 10-7 in the opening period.
“I thought we played good in the first period, we just made mistakes with execution,” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said. “We gave up two breakaways and a two-on-one on an execution mistake. So execution, that can happen (on) both sides.”
Hayton scored his 15th goal of the season off a rebound at 11:46 to make it 2-1. The goal extended his point streak to eight games (five goals, eight assists).
Winnipeg was outshot 18-3 in the second period and didn’t have a shot on goal for the final 16 minutes, 14 seconds of the frame.
“It’s funny. The second period the bench, it got quiet. They could see what was going on,” Jets coach Rick Bowness said.
“The third period, there was a lot of energy on the bench and that took itself out on the ice. We had everyone going. The bench was really energized in the third, they knew what was at stake, they knew we had to find a way to win this game."
The Jets had a pair of power plays close together early in the third, including a four-minute man advantage when Arizona’s Liam O’Brien received a double minor for high-sticking Winnipeg forward Vladislav Namestnikov in the face, but they couldn’t extend their lead.
Winnipeg ended the third period on the power play and finished 0-for-6. Arizona was 0-for-3.
KELLER KEEPS COOKING
Coyotes leading-scorer Clayton Keller extended his point streak to nine games with an assist on Hayton’s goal. He has seven goals and 10 assists during the run, and 76 points in 71 games.
Keller also tied Colorado forward Nathan MacKinnon for the second-most points since the NHL all-star break. They both have 35 points during that span. The Avalanche were idle Tuesday. Edmonton star Connor McDavid has racked up the most points (44) since the break. The Oilers also didn’t play Tuesday.
Winnipeg leading-scorer Kyle Connor hasn't scored a goal in 11 consecutive games.
Blake Wheeler has no goals in his past 18 games and top goal-scorer Mark Scheifele only has two assists in his past six outings.
Jets: Embark on a three-game road trip, starting Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks.
Coyotes: Finish back-to-back games in Edmonton Wednesday against the Oilers.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press