Much of the success the Winnipeg Jets have had this month has been the result of a high-powered offence.
But when called on, goalie Connor Hellebuyck and a reconfigured defence can deliver.
Hellebuyck made 24 saves for his second shutout, Neal Pionk had a power-play goal, and the Jets continued their torrid November with a 3-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.
The Jets have won three straight and are 10-2-1 this month with one game to play.
“I think we’re winning in all kinds of ways, which is nice,” Pionk said. “I think about a month ago in San Jose, Connor Hellebuyck made about 50 saves, we came out with a win. And then there’s nights like we had the other night in San Jose. So when you’re finding ways to win, I think that’s the sign of a good team.”
Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor also scored for the Jets. Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine each had two assists.
John Gibson made 17 saves for the Ducks.
Winnipeg played most of the game with five defencemen after Dmitry Kulikov sustained an upper-body injury in the first period and did not return. It was the second time this week the Jets finished a game without a full complement of defencemen after seeing out a 4-3 win over Columbus on Saturday with four players on the back end.
“I think it shows that we’re able to adapt,” Pionk said. “It just means that we’re simple from the back end, and then the forwards are simple too. That gives us the opportunity to change and keep ourselves fresh.”
That ability to adjust extends to offence for Pionk, who put the Jets up 1-0 at 1:08 of the second period when he scored on a slap shot from the blue line during a power play. Gibson could not see it through the screen set by Connor.
Pionk finds himself on the power play because of the ongoing absence of Dustin Byfuglien, who did not report to the team for training camp. Jets coach Paul Maurice said Pionk’s willingness to put shots towards the net has helped reduce the dependence on Wheeler, Laine and Mark Scheifele for power-play production.
“It doesn’t matter how hard you shoot it if it doesn’t hit the net,” Maurice said. “That puck’s got to get to the net, and Neal is really good at placing that shot.”
Ehlers made it 2-0 at 9:13 by scoring for the fifth time in seven games, and Connor extended the lead 1:51 into the third on a one-timer from Scheifele, which was more than enough support for Hellebuyck.
“I think it starts with Helle,” Pionk said. “We have trust in him and he has trust in us, so if we can keep shots to the perimeter, keep them to the outside, he’s a good goalie, he’s going to stop them.”
The Ducks had chances to take the lead in the first period, including a video review of a shot by centre Sam Steel at 5:15 which concluded the whistle blew to stop play before the puck crossed the line. Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said the inability to capitalize early was the difference in a physical game where tempers flared.
“We really needed one of those to go in tonight,” Eakins said. “It was one of those games that I just thought whoever was going to score that first goal was probably going to have a pretty good chance at winning it, and obviously we didn’t get it.”
NOTES: Kulikov will undergo further evaluation on Saturday, Maurice said. ... The Jets are 6-1 in their past seven road games. ... Ducks D Erik Gudbranson was called for 29 minutes in penalties, including a 10-minute misconduct after instigating a fight in the first and another 10-minute misconduct in the third.
Jets: At Los Angeles on Saturday night.
Ducks: Host Los Angeles on Monday night.