Blake Wheeler scored the go-ahead goal by redirecting Josh Morrissey’s centring pass with 3 minutes 55 seconds remaining and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Sunday to snap an 0-2-1 skid.
Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves to help the Jets end their longest winless streak of the season and maintain the Central Division lead. At 35-18-3, Winnipeg earned its 73rd point to move two ahead of Nashville after the Predators’ 5-4 overtime loss to St. Louis earlier in the day.
Andrew Copp also scored and Mark Scheifele sealed the win by scoring into an open net in the final seconds.
Jack Eichel scored and Carter Hutton had 26 saves for Buffalo. Coming off a 3-1 victory over Detroit on Saturday, the Sabres failed to win consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 11-13.
Buffalo (27-21-7) dropped to 2-2-1 with two games left in its seven-game homestand.
Morrissey set up the decisive goal by driving up the boards from the left point and slipping a pass through the middle and under Sabres defenceman Rasmus Dahlin. Wheeler was left alone at the right post, where he deposited the pass into the open side.
The Jets were coming off of consecutive 5-2 road losses against Ottawa on Saturday and Montreal in a game Thursday night in which the Canadiens outshot Winnipeg 53-34. Jets coach Paul Maurice joked before Sunday’s game the Jets could have allowed 15 goals given how poorly they played against Montreal.
The Sabres were leaking on defence as well in allowing 17 goals through the first three games before allowing one against Detroit.
Copp opened the scoring 3:01 into the second period on a short-handed breakaway. He got loose up the left wing after Dahlin went to his knees and failed to keep a bouncing puck inside the blue line. Copp burst in and snapped a shot beating Hutton inside the far post.
Eichel tied it nine minutes later and with Winnipeg’s Bryan Little returning to the ice after serving a slashing penalty. Playing give and go with Dahlin along the right boards, Eichel got the return pass, stepping into the circle and snapped a shot through a crowd, and with Hellebuyck screened by Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart.
Hutton was both good and fortunate in stopping 11 shots in the first period.
It included him stopping Adam Lowry on a short-handed breakaway. Hutton was losing his balance and put his glove down to balance himself just as Lowry tried to slip a shot through the goalie’s legs. The puck instead hit Hutton’s glove. Hutton recovered in time to stop Brandon Tanev attempt to convert the rebound.
Lowry and Tanev were both involved in another Winnipeg scoring chance with seven minutes left. Lowry broke in up the left side on a 2-on-1 and had his shot stopped by Hutton, who was guarding the short side. Lowry got to the rebound behind the net and immediately fed Tanev at the right post, who’s shot was blocked by defenceman
Hutton was making his first start in four games, since being yanked after allowing four goals on 22 shots through two periods in a 7-3 loss to Chicago on Feb. 1.