Coming into Tuesday night’s game at the United Center, the Winnipeg Jets had outscored the Hawks 6-1 in two games this season. Connor Hellebuyck had a .981 save percentage in those two games, a 4-0 win in Winnipeg and a 2-1 at the United Center earlier this month.
After 20 minutes of their third meeting of the season, those trends continued. The Jets held a 2-0 lead, and Hellebuyck had made 13 saves to keep the Blackhawks off the board.
Blake Wheeler opened the scoring at 8:27 with his 11th of the season, and Mark Scheifele was officially credited with his 15th of the season 6:21 later for the visitors. The second goal was initially credited to Jacob Trouba, but Scheifele got a piece and was later credited.
Corey Crawford also made 13 saves in the first period, and made 13 more in the second as his teammates attempted to come back against a division rival.
Returning from IR earlier in the day, Artem Anisimov scored his 15th of the year at 7:37 into the second.
Hellebuyck and Crawford had a strong second period, with only Anisimov’s goal. Winnipeg held a 26-25 shot advantage through 40 minutes.
Unfortunately for the fans at the UC, Drew Stafford extended the lead to 3-1 with his second of the season 2:27 into the third period. A turnover was compounded by a bad change and the Hawks were once again staring up at a two-goal deficit.
One of the biggest reasons the Jets came in 14 points behind the Hawks in the standings is their willingness to take dumb penalties. Winnipeg came in with 375 penalty minutes as a team, the eighth-highest total in the NHL.
And, at 7:29 into the third, Winnipeg’s captain Wheeler obliged with a delay of game penalty.
Sadly, the Hawks came into Tuesday night ranked 16th in the league on the power play. And, for the third time in the game, the Chicago failed to get anything done with an advantage.
Crawford went to the bench for an extra attacker with three minutes left in regulation. With 69 seconds left, the Hawks set up Artemi Panarin for his lethal one-timer, but the result summed up the night perfectly.
— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) December 28, 2016
The final horn sounded with the Blackhawks still looking up at a 3-1 score. Crawford finished the night with 31 saves against 34 shots, while Hellebuyck made 34 saves in another solid victory against the division-leading Blackhawks.
And that title – “division-leading” – is down to one point with the streaking Minnesota Wild now on the Hawks heels. Chicago has lost three in a row after their five-game winning streak, and finish the calendar year with road games at Nashville and Carolina.