Connor’s OT winner gives Winnipeg Jets 3-2 victory in Chicago

The Winnipeg Jets might be thrilled to not have to face the Chicago Blackhawks again this season.

The team with the worst record in the NHL once again gave the Jets fits Friday night in Chicago, but Kyle Connor’s overtime winner lifted the Jets to a 3-2 win.

Nikolaj Ehlers scored the first two goals of the game, but the Hawks tied it in the final minute before Connor struck just 25 seconds into the OT period to give the Jets a big two points.

“They’re a hard team to play against,” Ehlers said. “I think we maybe gave up some chances that we didn’t need to give up. But that’s something we’ll look at and clean up.”

Ehlers’ first period goal ended a 10-game scoring drought.

The Jets suffered a bit of a scare in the second period when Taylor Raddysh ran into the head of goalie Connor Hellebuyck. He dropped to the ice immediately, clearly in discomfort, but Hellebuyck stayed in the game, while Raddysh received a two-minute minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.

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“It was accidental,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “The referee did the right thing, give him a minor and yeah, it was accidental, but he’s a tough competitor.”

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Chicago got off to the better start, outshooting the Jets 9-4 at one point in the first but the visitors got on the board first thanks to Ehlers.

He skated the puck into the Chicago zone and fired a laser beam on goal from the bottom of the faceoff circle. It beat Petr Mrazek high, bouncing out of the net in the blink of an eye as Ehlers scored his 17th of the season and first since Jan. 20.

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Despite the Jets having a power play in the first, Chicago would lead in shots on goal 11-8 through 20 minutes.

Early in the second, Winnipeg was about to go on their second power play of the night when Ehlers had other ideas.

With Hellebuyck on the bench for an extra attacker during a delayed penalty call, Ehlers gathered speed and carried the puck up the ice, passing to himself in the neutral zone by banking the puck off the boards before skating into the Chicago end, cutting to the slot and wiring a slapshot past Mrazek to make it 2-0.

The Hawks got on the board with just over four minutes left in the frame. A Logan Stanley point shot was intercepted en route by Seth Jones, who sprung Colin Blackwell on a breakaway. He beat Hellebuyck to cut the Winnipeg lead in half heading to the third.

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It stayed 2-1 through most of a fast-moving third period with Chicago getting the bulk of the chances and with just over two minutes to go, Mrazek went to the bench to give the Blackhawks an extra attacker.

Ehlers just about cleared the puck with just under a minute left as he dove to knock it away at the blue line but he came up short. Moments later, Jason Dickinson slid the puck through the crease where Tyler Johnson was waiting at the backdoor to tie the game with 47 seconds left.

The Blackhawks won the opening faceoff in overtime but Josh Morrissey forced a turnover in the Winnipeg end. Connor got the puck and meandered up ice with it, and as he tried to send a pass to Morrissey in front of the Chicago net, the puck hit the skate of Nick Foligno and careened past Mrazek to end the game just 25 seconds into the extra session.

Hellebuyck was fantastic in the win for Winnipeg, turning aside 33 shots as the Jets improve to 14-3-1 against the Central Division this season. Mrazek made 29 saves in defeat.

Winnipeg will now return home to face the Arizona Coyotes Sunday at 5 p.m.

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