WINNIPEG â€” Mark Scheifele and the Winnipeg Jets may be out of the playoff picture, but they’re still fighting hard to play spoiler.
Scheifele’s overtime winner capped three unanswered goals for Winnipeg Thursday night, as the Anaheim Ducks surrendered a two-goal lead in the final 8:25 of regulation before falling 4-3 in overtime at MTS Centre.
“There’s still things to play for,” said Scheifele, who reached the 30-goal mark for the first time in his four-year NHL career. “Obviously, the playoffs are out of reach but there’s still lot of things to fight for. Guys fight for jobs, guys showing what they’re made of and they definitely showed it tonight.”
Following a video review, it was determined Dustin Byfuglien’s jam-job in the crease was indeed a good goal, tying the score 3-3 with 12 seconds remaining and sending the game to overtime.
Joel Armia and Blake Wheeler joined Byfuglien with regulation goals for Winnipeg (36-35-7) as the Jets snapped the Pacific Division-leading Ducks’ five-game winning streak.
“We didn’t give up. (We) stayed doing what we needed to do and got a couple breaks to go our way,” said Jets captain Wheeler, whose 24th goal of the season brought his club to within a goal late in the third.
“It’s probably hard for you to understand how difficult this is to go through again at a time like this. The fact we’re winning hockey games at this time of year with nothing to play for says a lot about the group that we have, the guys that we have.”
Corey Perry scored twice, while Jakob Silfverberg also scored for Anaheim (42-23-12).
“We didn’t play for the full 60 minutes,” said Perry, who scored his 17th and 18th goals of the season. “You take your foot off the gas in this league, you’re going to get burnt. You can’t sit back and receive a hockey game, and we did that in the final frame.”
Anaheim goaltender Jonathan Bernier turned away 36 of the 40 shots he faced as he continues to lead the Ducks on an impressive run since capturing the starting job from John Gibson.
Bernier has been rock solid in the month of March, leading all NHL goaltenders in wins despite Thursday’s loss. The 28-year-old is 10-1-2 this month, entering Winnipeg with a .946 save-percentage and a 1.65 goals against average â€” both good for third in the NHL in March.
“To me I’m just focusing game by game,” said Bernier. “There’s five games left in the season now and I wanna really make sure that I’m fresh and at the same time mentally I’m ready to go for Game 1 (of the playoffs).
Michael Hutchinson made 25 saves for Winnipeg, improving to 8-12-3 in his 19th start of the season.
Armia’s second short-handed goal in as many games â€” and fourth of the season â€” tied the game midway through the first. Armia, with an impressive individual effort, regained the puck after carrying it into the Ducks zone and beat an unsuspecting Bernier low with a quick shot for his 10th goal of the year.
Perry put the Ducks back in front with 1:04 remaining in the first, then padded Anaheim’s lead with his second of the game on the power play at 7:01 of the second.
On Tuesday night Anaheim clinched a playoff berth for a fifth-consecutive season â€” the only Pacific Division team to do so â€” and have reached the post-season in 10 of the last 12 seasons.
With five games remaining on their regular season schedule, the Ducks visit Edmonton on April 1 and Calgary April 2 to complete a four-game road trip before returning home to host Calgary, Chicago, and Los Angeles through April 9.
Winners of six of their last eight games, the Jets â€” who were officially eliminated from the playoffs on Monday with the St. Louis Blues’ 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes â€” captured a third straight victory following a pair of one-goal wins over Vancouver and in New Jersey.
The Jets have four games remaining in their season. They host the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night before travelling to St. Louis and Columbus next week. They play their final regular season game on April 8 at home against the Nashville Predators.
Darrin Bauming, The Canadian Press