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Wheeler, muckers lead way to victory





KANATA, Ont. — The Winnipeg Jets' fourth-liners are driving the bus right now.

Towering centre Adam Lowry's checking unit, with Brandon Tanev and Andrew Copp on the wings, got the Jets to where they needed to go Monday night — although it was a mighty bumpy ride.

The line generated three goals for the visitors, including Tanev's third short-handed effort of the season, to propel Winnipeg to a 6-5 victory over the Ottawa Senators in a loosey-goosey track meet at Canadian Tire Centre.

Copp scored 2:42 into the game, his seventh of the year, and helped set up defenceman Josh Morrissey's seventh on a blast from the point. Blake Wheeler scored his first of two goals just 21 seconds later.

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KANATA, Ont. — The Winnipeg Jets' fourth-liners are driving the bus right now.

Towering centre Adam Lowry's checking unit, with Brandon Tanev and Andrew Copp on the wings, got the Jets to where they needed to go Monday night — although it was a mighty bumpy ride.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle</p><p>Ottawa Senators Matt Duchene tries to get the puck past Winnipeg goaltender Connor Hellebuyck during first period, Monday.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Ottawa Senators Matt Duchene tries to get the puck past Winnipeg goaltender Connor Hellebuyck during first period, Monday.

The line generated three goals for the visitors, including Tanev's third short-handed effort of the season, to propel Winnipeg to a 6-5 victory over the Ottawa Senators in a loosey-goosey track meet at Canadian Tire Centre.

Copp scored 2:42 into the game, his seventh of the year, and helped set up defenceman Josh Morrissey's seventh on a blast from the point. Blake Wheeler scored his first of two goals just 21 seconds later.

Ottawa, playing its final home game of what's been a terrible 2017-18 campaign, showed some spunk in clawing back, pushing the Jets right to the buzzer.

"It's two points, it's a win," summed up Wheeler, who netted his 21st and 22nd. "There's obviously areas we can be better but we scored one more goal than they did."

The Jets' captain was quick to heap praise on the hard-working Lowry line, which has six goals and eight assists in its last four games — highlighted by Tanev's hat trick against the Boston Bruins a week ago.

"They've been playing great, got us going here tonight," he said. "It's great to see them playing with a lot of confidence. It seems like every shift they're in the offensive zone. They do a lot of the dirty work for us, and allows some of the other guys to have better matchups and play in some more impactful situations, so those guys are really key to what we try to do."

Matt Duchene swatted in his second goal of the game with just 65 seconds left as the Sens played with double the personnel of the Jets. Ben Chiarot and Jacob Trouba were in the penalty box, and Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson was on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, creating a rare 6-on-3.

But the Jets held on, improving to 2-1-0 on their last road trip of the regular season.

Winnipeg (49-20-10), second in the Central Division, will begin the post-season at home next week. Ottawa (27-41-11), meanwhile, has dropped eight of its last nine games and is 30st in the league, three points ahead of the last-place Buffalo Sabres.

Mathieu Perreault got some huge relief, scoring a power-play goal with just over five minutes left — his first goal in 20 games — to give the visitors a two-goal bulge.

"You almost forget how it feels to score goals, really," said Perreault, who did a post-goal happy dance in front of friends and family in the crowd. "It was certainly a great feeling and it ended up being the game-winner, so it was a big goal and I’m really happy I finally found the back of the net."

Kyle Connor had a couple of tremendous chances to net his 30th, the best coming on a 2-on-0 with Mark Scheifele, but couldn't connect. Paul Stastny hasn't scored in eight games, Patrik Laine has gone seven games without a goal, Nik Ehlers hasn't scored in five.

The muckers came through again, though.

"The last three or four games we've been pretty hot as a line. We feel like we're doing all the right things and when we get on the puck and force turnovers, I think we're in good spots to capitalize from there," said Copp. "We've got some hot sticks and (Tanev) is shooting the puck as good as I've ever seen him shoot the puck."

Tanev's drive, off the back bar, was in and out so quickly the goal light didn't go on.

"They’re doing it all right. They’re about as good at both ends of the ice as we’ve got right now. They’re hard on pucks and they’re making plays," said head coach Paul Maurice. "(There's) just enough skill in their game to generate offence, but also not a lot of risk in what they’re doing. It’s about as good as it gets."

Tanev finished with more ice time (15 minutes, 11 seconds) than Wheeler (13:45), Scheifele (14:01) or Laine (13:32), although he was a busy penalty killer. Ottawa had five man-advantage chances and cashed in on two.

"That’s what makes good teams great, when you’re fourth line and your third line, everybody is chipping in. This is how you win games," said Perreault.

Thomas Chabot had a two-goal game for Ottawa, while fellow blue-liner Christian Wolanin, son of former NHLer Craig Wolanin, fired his first NHL goal.

Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck stopped 32 shots for his 42nd victory of the year, although it wasn't his best evening of work. But the Jets weren't nearly as sound defensively as they were two nights ago in Toronto in a 3-1 triumph over the Leafs.

Maurice has stated a couple of times recently he won't give his players a night off with the sole purpose of preventing an injury at the worst-possible juncture.

He's of the mind that maintaining a rhythm is more critical than resting players during the final week of the 2017-18 NHL season. He wants no hint of rust and no bad habits worming their way in as the Jets put the finishing touches on a franchise-best regular season and prepare for what the organization hopes is a lengthy playoff run.

Dustin Byfuglien was the only regular given a reprieve, replaced on the blue line by rookie Tucker Poolman. The rest of the regular hands were on deck.

Maurice said the hulking veteran rearguard will return to the lineup tonight in Montreal.

Tyler Myers took a shot to the top of his knee in the first period and immediately went down in pain. He wasn't bearing weight on the leg his way off the ice and down the tunnel. But the 6-8 defenceman returned a couple of shifts later.

"You know what, there’s nothing you can do about it. You hope it doesn’t happen, but you can’t look into the crystal ball and see who is going to get hit with a tough shot block," said Maurice. "It’s a full-contact pro sport and we do our best to keep them in a rhythm."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell.


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