WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Connor Hellebuyck knows his Winnipeg Jets don’t have much room for error. So he made no mistakes on Friday night.
Hellebuyck stopped 29 shots for his fourth shutout of the season and Winnipeg beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0.
The Jets’ victory moves them within three points of the Blues and four points of Los Angeles for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
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”It’s huge. It’s a four-point game, and we’re kind of chasing them right now,” Hellebuyck said. ”We do want to make the playoffs, and that’s our goal here, so this is another good step in the right direction.”
Blake Wheeler scored twice, including on a first-period power play, and the Jets handed the Blues their fifth consecutive loss. Bryan Little added an empty-netter for his 18th of the season with 2:16 remaining in regulation, and Wheeler added another empty-net goal about a minute later.
”The importance of this game was evident throughout these last two days of practice,” Wheeler said. ”After that (6-5 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday), there was a sour taste in the room. We didn’t really play our best game but had an opportunity to try and salvage something.
”This time of year, you can’t miss out on those opportunities.”
Blues netminder Carter Hutton made 37 saves. He has been superb in 2017, entering Friday with shutouts in his last two starts, while also recording perfect outings in four of his last seven starts dating to Jan. 14.
”He’s fantastic,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. ”You feel bad for him when he plays that way, when we don’t even score a goal and he lets in one goal. Great effort from him. He was outstanding, like he usually is.”
Wheeler opened the scoring midway through the first with Blues forward Jori Lehtera off for hooking. Wheeler’s 18th of the season came as his point shot travelled down the middle and through traffic, beating Hutton low stick side.
In a scoreless second period, the Jets outshot the Blues 19-8 while getting two power plays to St. Louis’ one.
”I think we need to be a lot better defensively,” Hutton said. ”We gave up a lot of good chances. Any time you’re giving up, I don’t know how many shots they ended up with, but that’s not good enough.
”We’re playing a desperate hockey team and they showed they wanted it a lot more than us tonight.”
The Jets victory moves them within four points of the Los Angeles Kings for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
NOTES: Hellebuyck and Hutton both played at UMass-Lowell, though not at the same time. This was their first time playing against each other in the NHL. … Winnipeg finished 1 for 5 on the power play, while St. Louis went 0 for 3.
Blues: Complete their three-game trip at Colorado on Sunday night and Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Jets: Have four games remaining on a season-high six-game homestand, hosting Colorado on Saturday night and then San Jose, Pittsburgh and Calgary.