WINNIPEG — Patrik Laine’s accurate shooting has caught the attention of his opponents in the NHL, but it’s actually the 19-year-old’s feet that are capturing the attention of his teammates on the Winnipeg Jets.
Laine’s two goals Friday night, including the winner, helped the Jets edge the Detroit Red Wings 4-3.
"His feet. His skating. He’s driving harder," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice of what he’s seen emerge in Laine’s game. "He’s skating better with and without the puck, and because of that his timing is right and everything else is falling into place for him. It’s all in his feet."
Laine’s two point night extend his point scoring streak to seven games, where he has totalled eight goals and 13 points. Laine’s 33 goals this season move the Jets’ sophomore into a tie for fifth in the NHL with Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov and Minnesota’s Eric Staal.
"I think I’ve just started to skate more," said Laine, who leads the league with 16 power-play goals. "I’m just trying to work hard and play as simple as I can, and that’s the biggest reason why I’m getting rewarded. It’s just the skating that’s the biggest reason."
Winnipeg’s victory is its sixth in its past eight games. At 38-17-9 and 85 points, the Jets continue to nip at the heels of the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators.
Dustin Byfuglien and Ben Chiarot also added goals for Winnipeg.
Niklas Kronwall, Anthony Mantha, and Trevor Daley replied for Detroit (26-28-10). The Red Wings have lost five of their last seven games, each by a one-goal margin.
"It’s another one-goal loss here. We can say that we were close and that we battled hard in the third but there’s no reason for us to be in that situation," said Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg. "We’re not consistent enough."
Connor Hellebuyck turned away 30 of the 33 shots he faced to capture his 33rd victory of the season — good for the third most in the NHL. Detroit’s Jimmy Howard made 38 saves in the loss.
"I thought we started off pretty good, came out with a lot of energy," said Kronwall, who opened the scoring with the man-advantage midway through the first period. "We made it too hard on ourselves, kept turning the puck over. They’re a good team. When you give them the space and give them the puck back all of the time, they’re going to make you pay."
Kronwall capitalized on Detroit’s only power play — but 38 seconds later Winnipeg responded with two goals in a span of just 26 seconds to take the lead.
Laine scored his first with a wrist shot from in close following a Red Wings turnover in their own zone. Chiarot put away his first of the season with a soaring shot from the perimeter.
Winnipeg entered the game with the league’s No. 2-ranked home power play, but went 0 for 3 on the night.
Byfuglien’s back-door chip-in from a Josh Morrissey cross-ice feed put Winnipeg up 3-1 before Detroit responded with Mantha’s 21st of the season and, eventually, Daley’s eighth.
"There’s a little bit of chemistry there, especially offensively," said Morrissey of his defensive partner Byfuglien. "When you’re playing with him he can see those areas and go to those places. He found a great spot and I just put it on his tape."
Laine’s eventual winner was similar to his first goal of the game – a lightning-quick release wrister, beating Howard high.
"It’s always nice to finish the homestand with a win," added Laine. "We needed that."
Following 12 off their last 14 games on home ice, the Jets now head out on a season-long six-game road trip through the eastern United States beginning in Carolina on Sunday. The Red Wings complete their four-game road trip with visits to Minnesota and Boston.