WINNIPEG â€” Connor Hellebuyck isn’t picky about his shutouts.
The Winnipeg goalie made 28 saves for his third shutout of the season as the Jets blanked the Calgary Flames 2-0 on Monday night.
“The guys were blocking a lot of shots, but shots are fun and that game was fun,” said Hellebuyck, who also recorded the fifth shutout of his two-year NHL career. “The way the guys were playing in front of me made it even more fun because they were controlling the shots and making it easy on me. Any shutout is nice. I don’t care how they come.”
Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler scored for the Jets (20-20-3).
Chad Johnson turned aside 25 shots for the Flames (22-19-2). Johnson tipped his mask to Hellebuyck and his teammates’ defensive play.
“It was hard to get good looks on shots on Hellebuyck, and when we did have anything he was making the save,” Johnson said. “I just thought they played harder and that’s pretty much all it came down to.”
Jets coach Paul Maurice was happy for his 23-year-old netminder.
“Good for Connor,” he said. “He had good saves in there.
“I don’t think he was overworked, but he needs an opportunity to have a game like that, too, where he was nice and clean and tidy defensively â€” kind of like our team.”
It was the first game for the Jets without rookie star Patrik Laine, who’s out indefinitely with a concussion suffered in last Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Buffalo. Drew Stafford took Laine’s spot on the top line with centre Mark Scheifele and right-winger Nikolaj Ehlers, a trio that spent some time together last season.
“That’s where I’m naturally comfortable, that’s where I play,” Stafford said. “I know that I can produce and contribute in that role so that’s pretty much how it is for me.”
And that’s just what he did, as he and Ehlers assisted on Byfuglien’s goal at 10:21 of the first period.
The big defenceman took a pass from Stafford just outside the blue line, skated around Flames captain Mark Giordano and fired a shot over Johnson’s glove for his sixth goal of the season.
“We looked a little sloppy, like we didn’t execute as well as we did in the past,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We certainly didn’t do that today. I thought they defended well, though, so maybe it can be a little bit of that.”
Ehlers extended his point streak to five games with the assist, including five goals and two assists. He has 13 points in his past 10 games.
Flames rookie Matthew Tkachuk took a big hit from Byfuglien in the second, but withstood the blow. The young forward â€” his father, Keith, was a star for the Jets before they moved to Arizona in 1996 â€” had his nine-game point streak end, the longest by an NHL rookie this season. He had one goal and nine assists during that span.
Wheeler scored his 12th goal of the season after stretching his stick out to intercept a pass between Calgary defencemen Dennis Wideman and T.J. Brodie in their own zone. Wheeler went in alone straight at Johnson and beat him glove side to make it 2-0 at 3:16.
“It’s frustrating, definitely not what I planned on happening,” Brodie said of the giveaway. “But at the end of the day, it’s over with. The more you think about it, the more it affects you. It’s time to move on.”
Hellebuyck preserved the shutout when he gloved a shot by Michael Frolik with 12 seconds remaining.
Both teams finished 0 for 3 on the power play,
Notes: The Flames return home for two games, starting Wednesday against San Jose. Winnipeg hosts Montreal the same night. … UFC and WWE star Brock Lesnar took in the game from a private box wearing a Dustin Byfuglien jersey.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press