CHICAGO—The Winnipeg Jets were just OK for most of the first part of the season. Except for their games against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Against the Blackhawks, they were perfect.
Andrew Copp and Bryan Little scored in a 32-second span in the third period as Winnipeg continued its dominance over Chicago with a 5-3 victory on the final night before the NHL all-star break.
“For some reason, we elevate our game when we play this team and we always give our best,” Little noted.
“The big thing for us is having that confidence and having that energy, and just will to win against other teams,” he remarked.
“For some reason, we just have these guys' numbers.”
Winnipeg (23-25-4) improved to 4-0 against Chicago (30-16-5), outscoring the Blackhawks 13-4.
It had dropped four in a row against Chicago coming into this season.
“These are huge points,” said Connor Hellebuyck, who made 38 saves in his first appearance since Jan. 13.
“It doesn't matter what team we're playing, we need to continue to grow our team and continue to get points,” he stressed.
“And [I] think these two are going to spring us post all-star break.”
Little, Copp, rookie Patrik Laine, and Mark Scheifele each had a goal and an assist, helping the Jets to just their third win in their last nine games.
The Blackhawks led 3-2 before Copp tipped Josh Morrissey's shot past Scott Darling with 4:03 left.
Little then blasted a shot by Darling for his 13th of the season, silencing the crowd of 21,746.
Scheifele added an empty-netter at 17:57 for his 22nd goal—moving the centre into a tie with Laine for the team lead.
“I thought we had good control of the game,” said Blackhawks' defenceman Duncan Keith.
"They were getting chances but we were playing well.
“It was just two sets of two quick goals," he noted. "It totally changed the game.”
Keith, Nick Schmaltz, and Tanner Kero scored for the Blackhawks, who allowed four goals in the third period of a 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Darling finished with 28 saves.
Winnipeg also scored two goals in a 42-second span in the first period—continuing a disturbing trend for Chicago.
The Blackhawks allowed two in 46 seconds against Vancouver on Sunday, then surrendered a pair of goals in 30 seconds against the Lightning.
“It's hard to accept these two. Especially this one today,” defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson said.
“It's going to kind of ruin the [all-star] break a little bit,” he admitted.
“It's going to take a little while to swallow the way we've lost this one.”
Winnipeg jumped in front in the first when Little made a great pass across the ice to Laine, who drove a one-timer by Darling for a power-play goal at 6:16.
Laine returned Tuesday after missing eight games with a concussion.
Jacob Trouba then had a big slapshot go off the right skate of Blackhawks' defenceman Brian Campbell and past Darling, with Shawn Matthias getting his stick on the puck just before it crossed the line.
“There were plays that could have been defended against, for sure, tonight,” said Blackhawks' coach Joel Quenneville.
“We always talk about important shifts,” he noted.
“That's the first shift after a goal; a key shift in games.”
The Blackhawks, who controlled much of the early action, got one back after Nic Petan was whistled for hooking at 13:02.
Just five seconds into the ensuing power play, Keith drove a slapshot by Hellebuyck from the left point with Chicago centre Artem Anisimov providing a perfect screen in front.
Schmaltz got the tying goal four minutes into the second.
Elsewhere in the NHL, the N.Y. Islanders beat Montreal 3-1, Philadelphia edged Toronto 2-1, Calgary nipped Ottawa 3-2 (OT), Edmonton dumped San Jose 4-1, and Arizona blanked Vancouver 3-0
Minnesota beat St. Louis 5-1, Boston shaded Pittsburgh 4-3, L.A. blanked Carolina 3-0, Washington beat New Jersey 5-2, Florida nipped Tampa Bay 2-1 (OT), Nashville edged Columbus 4-3, and Dallas topped Buffalo 4-3.