PITTSBURGH — The youngest member of an inexperienced Winnipeg Jets defensive unit led the way to a big win.
Ville Heinola scored his first NHL goal and the Jets beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 on Tuesday night.
Winnipeg Jets lose two more key defencemen
“It was a good moment for me,” the 18-year-old Heinola said. “It was exciting. Of course, I was dreaming of that.”
The Jets got their first win in Pittsburgh since returning to the NHL in 2011. The Penguins previously won 18 consecutive home games against the Jets-Atlanta Thrashers franchise dating to March 24, 2007. Pittsburghs last loss against Winnipeg at home came on Dec. 27, 2006.
Tucker Poolman scored his second NHL goal and Neal Pionk his second of the season as three defencemen scored for a young Jets blueline, which combined for 350 career NHL games.
“Those guys have worked really hard back there,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “Theyre learning every shift. I thought they were great.”
Jets Josh Morrissey to sit for precautionary reasons vs. Penguins
Nikolaj Ehlers scored his first of the season, while Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele both had three assists for the Jets, who closed a season-opening, four-game road trip. Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves in his second start of the season.
The Winnipeg Jets are a hot mess right now
“I thought the guys in front of me played very hard,” Hellebuyck said. “They were blocking shots at the right time and controlling shots from the outside. It was a team win.”
Sidney Crosby scored his first of the season and Matt Murray stopped 17 shots for Pittsburgh, which routed Columbus 7-2 on Saturday.
“I dont think the score (Tuesday) was an indication of how the game was played,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think the game was a lot closer than the score indicates.”
Jets defenceman Dmitry Kulikov was granted a personal leave of absence, while Josh Morrissey missed his second straight game after sustaining an upper body injury during warmups before Sundays loss at the New York Islanders.
The Jets played Tuesday without six defencemen from last seasons team, which lost to eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis in the first round of the playoffs. The list includes Kulikov and Morrissey, while Dustin Byfuglien remains away from the team on a personal leave. Winnipeg traded Jacob Trouba to the New York Rangers, while Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot left in free agency.
“We all went through training camp together, so we all got to know each other pretty well,” Pionk said. “We created that bond in training camp and went from there.”
Pittsburgh had injury troubles of its own as Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstad were recently placed on injured reserve after leaving Saturdays win against Columbus with lower body injuries. Sullivan said both will be out long term. Patric Hornqvist also left Tuesdays game with a lower-body injury.
Head coach Paul Maurice told reporters that defenceman Josh Morrissey will be held out of the team’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, as per JetsTV reporter Mitchell Clinton.
Crosby opened the scoring 32 seconds into the game. He was alone at the top of the crease when he redirected Jake Guentzels pass past Hellebuyck.
Heinola, the 20th overall pick in this years draft, scored his first NHL goal at 5:48 of the period. Heinolas shot from the top of the left circle snuck underneath Murrays glove to tie the game.
Ehlers gave Winnipeg a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later. He pounced on a turnover at Pittsburghs blue line and ripped a short-side wrist shot past a standing Murray.
No Morrissey? No Kulikov? No problem
Poolman put Winnipeg ahead 3-1 just 54 seconds into the second period with a blocker-side wrist shot from the slot.
Pionk made it 4-1 midway through the second. It was the third goal scored by the Jets young defensive corps, more than enough to beat Pittsburgh on this night.
Winnipeg Jets recall Nelson Nogier from the Manitoba Moose
“I thought they were fantastic,” Hellebuyck said. “They were blocking shots, they were controlling pucks and they did exactly what they were asked to do. I think as the game went on, they got even better.”
NOTES: Crosby passed Jean Beliveau for 41st on the NHLs career points list. . Pittsburghs Brandon Tanev played against his former team. Tanev, who signed a six-year, $21-million contract in July, set career highs last season with the Jets and scored 24 goals and 51 points in 195 games. . Penguins D John Marino and F Sam Lafferty made their NHL debuts. Lafferty grew up less than 100 miles from Pittsburgh. . The Penguins have won 15 of their last 20 games overall against the Jets.
Acquiring blueline help through a trades or two is certainly an option and looking like an absolute necessity for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff at this point, but youre not bringing in anything of value without moving one of your top-six forwards. Do you want to tinker with your only real bright spot — those top two lines — in order to just get this blue line closer to average?
Winnipeg Jets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Prediction, Preview, and Odds – 10-8-2019
Winnipeg Jets Bryan Little (18) checks Ottawa Senators Thomas Chabot (72) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg on Saturday, February 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
The Winnipeg Jets have placed centre Bryan Little on injured reserve and granted defenceman Dmitry Kulikov a personal leave, the team announced Tuesday.
In a pair of corresponding moves, the club also recalled defencemen Sami Niku and Nelson Nogier from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
Little, 31, was diagnosed with a concussion last week after taking a hit from the Minnesota Wild’s Luke Kunin in a pre-season tilt.
Morrissey, Kulikov out tonight
Kulikov’s absence is another blow to an already-shorthanded Jets blue line, which is missing Dustin Byfuglien who was suspended by the team as he mulls his future.