WINNIPEG — It was instant chemistry for Nikolaj Ehlers and his new linemates on Tuesday night.
“It’s tough to find, and it doesn’t happen much,” said Ehlers of the connection between new linemates Mark Scheifele and Wheeler. “I think we all have great speed and we used that well today.”
“It’s awesome that I got the three goals, but that we ended off before the break with a win (is better).”
In his 10th-straight start between the pipes for the Jets (22-24-3), Connor Hellebuyck turned away 32 shots for his 12th victory in his 22nd start of the season.
Ehlers opened the scoring on the power play 6:55 into the first, capitalizing on Mark Stone‘s second penalty of the game.
“You put yourself in a hole when you take penalties early,” said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett. “You get down too early and you’re chasing the game. When you’re a team that played the night before, it’s not a good recipe for you.”
Ehlers added his second of the game at 13:53 of the first, knocking Wheeler’s centring pass out of mid-air, off the post, and off Domingue’s back and in to make it 2-0.
Ehlers completed the hat trick at 14:31 of the second, taking a Wheeler centring pass while coasting backwards before wiring a wrister high-blocker past Domingue. It was Ehlers’s first multi-point game of the season, putting him at 12 goals and 10 assists in 49 games.
Byfuglien’s first goal extended Winnipeg’s lead to 3-0, six minutes into the second period. Appearing to dump the puck into the Arizona zone from centre, Byfuglien turned his hips as he released a slapshot, fooling Domingue and beating the goaltender under his right pad.
“I’ve tried it a few times throughout the year and it was finally nice to get one cheating,” said Byfuglien. “I pay attention every game. Watch them. Watch every goalie (and) how quick they come out. That one, they just had four guys back and everyone was just waiting for the rim and kind of cheated to that side, so I decided to turn on it and got a good bounce.”
With Jets defencemen Ben Chiarot and Jacob Trouba off for holding and high-sticking late in the second, Winnipeg’s 28th-ranked penalty kill went to work down 5 on 3 for 1:45 against Arizona’s 14th-ranked power play. But the Coyotes played dangerously, allowing a Bryan Little breakaway moments before Byfuglien cashed in on his own for his 14th goal of the season.
The Jets remain perfect at home against Arizona – 6-0-0 since the franchise relocated from Atlanta in 2011.
NOTES: The last rookie to score a hat trick for the Jets franchise was Kamil Piros on April 6, 2003 against the Tampa Bay Lightning while playing for the Atlanta Thrashers.