Hellebuyck helps 'desperate' Jets beat Lightning 3-2
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Nino Niederreiter and Morgan Barron scored second-period goals, Connor Hellebuyck made 33 saves and the Winnipeg Jets held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Sunday night.
Nate Schmidt scored in the first period and Hellebuyck stopped all 14 shots he faced in the third for the Jets, who improved to 8-3-0 in the second game of back-to-back sets. The Jets beat the Florida Panthers 5-4 in overtime on Saturday.
“It’s huge,” associate coach Scott Arniel said. “Two tough barns, especially the last couple of years with how good Florida is. It’s a real desperate time for us; we have to keep pace with everyone in our division and conference. We knew it was going to be a tough trip, and it’s off to a great start.”
Hellebuyck stood tall in the third period, when the Lightning dominated play.
“He’s the best in the world for a reason,” Barron said of the 2020 Vezina Trophy winner. “He’s able to do that. He just sticks to his process. We have full faith in him. He made some huge saves down the stretch tonight.”
Alex Killorn and Anthony Cirelli scored for Tampa Bay, and Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 19 saves. Victor Hedman hit the post in the final seconds.
“We might have had four or five posts today and we might have had one with four seconds left,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “A goalie’s best friend is the post, and it was Hellebuyck’s tonight.”
Niederreiter’s power-play goal 1:01 into the second period put the Jets ahead 2-1. He picked up the deflection of a shot by Mark Scheifele and tucked it between Vasilevskiy’s pads.
Barron knocked the rebound of Brenden Dillon’s shot into a half-empty net at 9:04; the goal, which made it 3-1, was upheld after the Lightning challenged for goaltender interference.
“I never know with the goalie interference stuff anymore,” Barron said when asked if he was confident that the goal would stand. “Just watching on TV, it seems like kind of a coin flip. I didn’t feel like (Dillon) went in there too hard, and I think that’s what ultimately swayed them toward the decision they made. It was an easy one for me, just an empty net.”
Killorn gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead 1:19 into the game when his wrist shot snuck past Hellebuyck and barely slid over the goal line. But the Jets got even at 10:15 when Schmidt’s straightaway slap shot from just inside the blue line deflected off Lightning forward Michael Eyssimont and went past Vasilevskiy.
“I thought we had a ton of chances tonight,” Killorn said. “I thought we played a good, solid game. Obviously we didn’t get the win. I don’t even know how many posts we hit during the game. The way we played is going the right way, and if you do that consistently you’re going to win a lot more than you lose.”
The Lightning received a bench minor for the failed challenge on Barron’s goal, but they pulled within 3-2 at 10:01 on Cirelli’s short-handed breakaway goal. Tampa Bay had three power plays later in the period, including a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:02, but couldn’t score.
“I’m proud of the guys; they did a real good job clearing the front of the net,” Arniel said. “There were a lot of crazy situations going on at times, and they kept their head.”
Cirelli didn’t return after being hit by Jets centre Scheifele at 14:20 of the second period. Scheifele was assessed a minor penalty for an illegal hit to the head. Cooper had no update after the game.
Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos returned after missing the last two periods of Saturday night’s 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks with a lower-body injury. Winnipeg played without its top defenceman, Josh Morrissey, who sustained a lower-body injury in the win at Florida.
Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov’s 24-game home point streak ended. He had eight goals and 35 assists for 43 points during the streak. … The Lightning finished 12-3-1 against the Central Division, but two of the three regulation losses were against the Jets.
Jets: Complete a three-game trip at Carolina on Tuesday.
Lightning: Play the first of back-to-back games at New Jersey on Tuesday.
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
John Kreiser, The Associated Press