Connor’s record 41st winner leads Jets past Lightning 4-2
WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — Kyle Connor set a franchise record with his 41st game-winning goal, scoring on a power play at 5:38 of the third lead as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Friday night.
Connor’s record-setting goal moved him past Ilya Kovalchuk for the most winners in Jets-Atlanta Thrashers history.
“Our power play came up with some big goals, but our penalty kill, it’s been right up there at the top all season, and it really showed its strength tonight,” Connor said. “You can win a lot of games with a good penalty kill.”
The Jets went 2 for 6 on the power play — scoring twice during 5-on-3 advantages — and killed off all four of Tampa Bay’s chances with the man advantage in the win.
“The special teams were obviously outstanding,” coach Rick Bowness said. “(Associate coach) Scotty Arniel has done a fantastic job with the penalty kill. They won the game for us tonight because that’s a great power play.
“We’re working very hard on the power play and get those two 5-on-3s and also got a 4-on-4 goal. … Our special teams tonight won the game.”
Bowness was a winner in a milestone game. The 67-year-old was behind the bench for his NHL-record 2,600th game, including stints as a head coach, associate coach or assistant coach.
Pierre-Luc Dubois scored twice and Morgan Barron helped seal Winnipeg’s fourth straight win, scoring short-handed into an empty net with 1:26 remaining.
Connor also had an assist. Josh Morrissey added three assists and Mark Scheifele two. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 26 shots.
Anthony Cirelli had a goal and an assist, and Nikita Kucherov also scored for the Lightning, who finished a three-game trip with a 1-2-0 record. Tampa Bay is 9-9 on the road.
After missing two straight games with an illness, Andrei Vasilevsky stopped 16 of the 19 shots for Tampa Bay.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper didn’t mince words about his team’s penchant for penalties.
“It’s a complete lack of discipline,” he said. “It was embarrassing what we did.
“How many 5-on-3s you’re up against in one season, you count on maybe one hand, and we give them two minute-and-a-half 5-on-3s in one game. Unacceptable. That shouldn’t happen. And good on Winnipeg.
“Honestly, it was really a nothing game going on. That game could have been 0-0 and a shootout. They (Jets) stayed disciplined, just said, ‘Sit back and wait for Tampa to screw it up’ and they did. And that’s what happened.”
The Lightning outshot the Jets 12-4 in the first period, but the game was tied 1-all.
Cirelli scored at 11:48, converting a rebound off a Steven Stamkos shot to beat Hellebuyck.
With nine seconds remaining in the period, Dubois tipped in a wrist shot by Connor for his 18th goal of the season.
Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead at 1:35 of the second when Kucherov’s shot went through Hellebuyck’s pads.
Winnipeg went on an 87-second, two-man advantage at 6:05. The Jets capitalized, this time with Dubois getting a piece of Morrissey’s point shot at 7:05.
The Jets broke the tie with another two-man advantage after Stamkos was sent off for cross-checking at 4:34. Vladislav Namestnikov followed him six seconds later for delay of game.
Connor’s one-timer beat Vasilevsky on the glove side for his 17th of the season.
Stamkos had a great chance to tie it up with about six minutes remaining, but his shot ended up being swiped away from the goal line by Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo.
Connor was called for tripping with 1:52 left and Tampa Bay pulled Vasilevsky for the six-on-four, but Barron spoiled the attack.
NOTES: The Jets returned four players from the injury list. Nikolaj Ehlers was back after missing 36 games. The forward was hurt in the second game of the season and had sports hernia surgery. Blake Wheeler returned after sitting out nine games following groin surgery. Veteran defenseman Nate Schmidt also missed nine games with an upper-body injury, while rookie forward Cole Perfetti was out five games with a shoulder injury.
Jets: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday.
Lightning: Host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday.
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