Patrik Laine didn’t even need a pre-season to round into regular season form.
Laine scored twice including the overtime winner to help the Winnipeg Jets win their season opener 4-3 over the Calgary Flames on Thursday at Bell MTS Place.
Playing with his new linemates Paul Stastny and Kyle Connor, Laine also added an assist to make for a spectacular three-point night in his season debut.
“He worked harder here for two weeks than at any point in his time here,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “And then he gets just an incredible payoff, right. So now he’s feeling good. It’s like most of these guys. It’s all part of the development. You get bigger, stronger, you understand what a training camp is gonna be like.
“He’s a very driven young man. He wants to be great. And sometimes you have to learn how that unfolds. What he got tonight he earned. He didn’t get lucky. He didn’t have a bunch of good bounces go for him or anything like that. He just worked.”
Connor and Mark Scheifele had the others markers for the Jets in the win.
Laine also nearly got into his first fight. He dropped his gloves and even threw a few punches in a scrum in the middle frame to stick up for Connor, who had just been drilled into the boards head first.
“Nothing surprises you with him,” Stastny said. “I’m probably his biggest – what’s the opposite of critic, appraiser or whatever. I’ve always loved his game. I always love when he gets engaged and he’s such a physical specimen. You don’t see it cause he’s so smooth out there.”
The Finnish sniper both opened and closed the scoring for the Jets. But just as impressive was a perfect cross-ice pass to set up Kyle Connor in the second period for the Jets third goal which came on the powerplay.
“Three points – it’s not always going to tell the whole story,” Laine said. “It was a lot of things I need to work on. I think we were kinda poaching pucks a little bit too much in the first.”
The Jets got off to a shaky start with Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, and Elias Lindholm all scoring first period goals for Calgary.
And while It took a full 20 minutes for the Jets to shake off the rust after not playing a game since August, they buckled down in the final two periods. After trailing 3-1 after 20 minutes of play, the Jets seized the momentum to start off the second period and scored three unanswered goals the rest of the way in route to the victory.
“It wasn’t our best start, but the team stuck with it,” Connor said. “Bottom line, we came out of it with two points, and that’s definitely a game we can build on.”
Connor also added two helpers for a three point performance.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 23 of 26 shots in the win. The Jets outshot the Flames 34-26 with Jacob Markstrom finishing the game with 30 saves.
Nikolaj Ehlers ended up playing in the season opener after missing their last two morning skates while in COVID protocols, but he was cleared to play just prior to game time.
“I woke up with a sore throat,” Ehlers said. “Called the trainers, and I had to go through the protocols that they made for things like that. And everything was fine, and today I got the OK to play.
“I don’t want to come to the rink in case that it is COVID. I don’t want to spread it, so I had no problem with staying at home.”
It was the first game at Bell MTS Place with no fans in the building.
Defenceman Dylan DeMelo missed the match after his wife just gave birth, and was replaced in the lineup by Sami Niku.
The Jets are now off until Monday when they travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs to start off a stretch of six games in just nine days.
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