Jets mount late charge but Makar scores in OT to give Avalanche the win
After showing little spirit in a home loss to Detroit Wednesday, the Winnipeg Jets brought their A-game but it wasn’t enough to beat the best team in the NHL Friday night.
Cale Makar’s winner on an overtime power play lifted the Colorado Avalanche to a 5-4 win in what was the most electrifying game at Canada Life Centre this season.
It was not the start the Jets wanted when the Avs got a bit of a fluke goal to open the scoring. Nicolas Aube-Kubel threw the puck on net from the corner, hoping to connect with a teammate but instead it banked off the skate of Brenden Dillon and past Connor Hellebuyck.
The Avalanche would get an opportunity to make it 2-0 on a power play but the Jets killed it off, and not long after they were able to draw level.
Just past the midway point of the period, Nikolaj Ehlers was sprung on a 2-on-1 with Mark Scheifele. Ehlers showed great patience as Scheifele drove to the net, waiting until the perfect moment to send a pinpoint pass. Scheifele shovelled it past Pavel Francouz for his 28th goal of the season.
Those two would connect again with less than three minutes to go in the frame. Bowen Byram misfired on a pass in his own end, trying to hit JT Compher but instead it wound up on the stick of Scheifele, who fired a pass to Ehlers who was parked in front of the net.
His initial try was turned aside by Francouz but Ehlers banged home the rebound to give Winnipeg its first lead since blowing an early advantage in Toronto Mar. 31.
But it didn’t take Colorado long in the second period to erase that lead. Using Dylan DeMelo as a screen, Andre Burakovsky ripped a shot that dove under Hellebuyck’s glove at the 3:55 mark.
The Jets nearly regained the lead moments later when Dylan Samberg, playing in his first NHL game since January, hit Scheifele with a great stretch pass to send the centre in alone but he was turned aside by Francouz.
Just past the nine minute mark, the Avalanche regained the lead thanks to veteran defenceman Erik Johnson. Drifting into the slot in transition, Johnson got the puck from Alex Newhook and wired a wrister past Hellebuyck.
After some very entertaining back-and-forth action, Compher got behind the Jets defence on a breakaway but he was hooked from behind by Dillon and awarded a penalty shot. He outwaited Hellebuyck and had the Jets goalie down but Compher’s backhand missed the net.
Mere seconds later, Cale Makar was called for tripping, giving Winnipeg a power play for the first time in the game. Not only did they not generate much offence, Hellebuyck had to make a couple high-quality saves to prevent a shorthanded goal.
The Avalanche extended the lead early in the third when Nathan MacKinnon was first to a rebound that nobody else could locate, making a move in front to beat Hellebuyck.
It was his 25th of the season and fifth against Winnipeg alone.
With time running out on the Jets, Scheifele decided to take matters into his own hands. Collecting the puck just outside his own blueline with under four minutes left, Scheifele skated through multiple opponents before ripping a perfect shot past Francouz to make it a one-goal game and inject life into the building.
Re-invigorated by the Scheifele goal, the Jets mounted a late charge to try and tie the game. MacKinnon had a chance to seal the deal on an empty net but Morrissey laid out to block the attempt, which turned out to be critical because moments later, Mikko Rantanen was called for cross-checking Ehlers, giving the Jets a last-minute power play.
With 15.6 seconds left off a scramble in front, Ehlers found the loose puck and knocked it home to tie the game and send the crowd into a frenzy, setting the table for overtime.
But early in overtime, Ehlers was called for slashing, giving Colorado a 4-on-3 man advantage. Just three seconds before Ehlers was set to get out of the box, Makar buried a one-timer to end the game.
Both goalies were very busy in the game, with Francouz turning aside 39 shots while Hellebuyck stopped 32 shots in defeat.
The Jets now have ten games left in the season and while not mathematically eliminated, a playoff spot is all but unreachable at this point. Nonetheless, they return to action Sunday evening in Ottawa.