Nikolaj Ehlers’ redemption arrives when the Jets want him most
The Jets had been lacking star scorers Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine, however their remaining forwards stepped it up in Recreation 2 – none greater than Ehlers, who lastly acquired his first profession playoff aim in Recreation 23.Nikolaj Ehlers|Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsNikolaj Ehlers won’t ever be mistaken for a braggadocio. Talking on a Zoom convention name after his aim sealed a 3-2 win for his Winnipeg Jets in opposition to the Calgary Flames in Recreation 2 of their qualifying spherical matchup, Ehlers was stoic as ever, downplaying what was an extremely dramatic night time for one participant to expertise. Nevertheless it’s Blake Wheeler’s job as captain to see the large image, learn his teammates and act as a conduit between them and the teaching employees. Ehlers might not have wished to acknowledge to the epicness of his storyline, however Wheeler summarized it along with his trademark eloquence.
“It’s a loopy recreation, this recreation we play, it’s an odd-shaped puck, and there’s cracks everywhere in the ice,” Wheeler mentioned. “And the bounces the puck take are generally for and in opposition to you. Typically you surprise if the hockey gods are an actual factor. Nicky’s had some unimaginable alternatives within the final two post-season runs to attain objectives, and it simply hasn’t labored out for him. After which he’s getting cross-checked within the again, and one hits off his stick and goes into an empty internet. I feel that’s a testomony to a man sticking with it, doing the appropriate factor and staying within the combat. You guys do not know what a elevate that’s, particularly when you must reply the identical query post-season after post-season, why you’re not scoring, why you’re not producing, particularly a man who’s used to doing it. So he’s going to have a very good sleep tonight, and we’re going to see some fireworks out of him hopefully tomorrow.”
Since debuting in 2015-16, Ehlers, a silky-handed and blindingly quick left winger, had extra regular-season factors than all however two Jets, however he had zero objectives in 22 profession playoff video games. He thus carried loads of playoff baggage nicely earlier than his eventful Recreation 2 Monday. Then issues acquired worse. He made a hideous giveaway within the second interval, throwing a puck up the center in his personal zone, proper onto the stick of Calgary’s Elias Lindholm, who reduce a 2-Zero Jets result in 2-1. Then, with the rating 2-2, on the 7:27 mark of the third, Ehlers crashed into Matthew Tkachuk recklessly and took a roughing penalty.
“When there’s 12, 13 minutes left of a hockey recreation, you don’t want to be taking penalties,” Ehlers mentioned. “It’s not enjoyable sitting on the market.”
It was a day when the Jets wanted Ehlers greater than ever. Prime middle Mark Scheifele was out after sustaining a lower-body damage believed to be a skate reduce in a controversial collision with Tkachuk, and key sniper Patrik Laine additionally missed Recreation 2 with an upper-body damage. There Ehlers was, stumbling by way of a recreation that might’ve rendered him a goat. He persevered, nevertheless, He acquired to the slot with Flames blueliner Derek Forbort draped on him and redirected a Neal Pionk level shot for a power-play aim to make it 3-2 on the 10:24 mark of the third.
“I used to be in there, I do know what I must do in there, and I used to be fortunate sufficient to get a stick on that puck,” Ehlers mentioned. “It felt nice, however you be taught each single recreation, whether or not it’s pre-season or common season or playoffs. You’ve acquired to get in the place it hurts just a little, and I used to be ready to try this at this time.”
“Man, he wanted that, proper?” mentioned Jets coach Paul Maurice. “It’s essential really feel a part of it. It’s essential really feel that you simply’re a part of the trigger. And he has been. He’s performed some good hockey for us. However higher that than a aim in a 4-1 loss. When you’re gonna get one, he wants the game-winner in a recreation (the place) we’re up in opposition to it. So he will get to hold that with him.”
Ehlers wasn’t the one unlikely hero in Recreation 2. The accidents to Scheifele, Laine and Mason Appleton drew Jansen Harkins, Gabriel Bourque and Nicholas Shaw into the lineup. Harkins opened the scoring for Winnipeg within the first, ending off a breakaway with a superbly positioned wrist shot. The Flames had a golden alternative to place their opponent on the brink minus two of its franchise forwards however failed. Calgary went Zero for six on the facility play. It generated extra photographs and scoring possibilities than the Jets at 5-on-5 in Recreation 2, however the Jets had extra high-danger possibilities and scored on two of them. Proper winger Andrew Mangiapane additionally took a expensive retaliation penalty late within the third when he rained cross checks on Cody Eakin’s again, killing Calgary’s probability at a rally. So the Flames gave away an important alternative – however the Jets additionally earned their success with what Maurice referred to as one of many top-five gustiest group victories he’s ever coached. For him, successful minus so many key gamers felt acquainted. It’s a giant motive Winnipeg certified for the playoff match, overcoming a parade of maladies throughout the common season.
“I’m proud that we received the sport within the method that we did, with the accidents that we had, as a result of it would give the individuals that aren’t conversant in our season just a little glimpse of what we’ve been doing all 12 months,” Maurice mentioned.
The Flames acquired a glimpse of a weakened Jets lineup and couldn’t capitalize. Will the window shut? The groups meet once more Tuesday night time, so a brief layoff will make it powerful for the Jets’ wounded to make it again, however Maurice didn’t rule them out. Requested about their standing by Related Press reporter Stephen Whyno, Maurice merely proclaimed, “We’ll see tomorrow,” providing to purchase Whyno dinner for giving a “horses—” reply.”
Whether or not some, all or not one of the injured Jets return for Recreation 3, the Flames can’t afford to come back out flat once more.
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Join: In regards to the AuthorMatt LarkinMatt Larkin is a senior author at The Hockey Information and has been a part of the group since 2011. He is your one-stop store for deep-dive participant interviews, predictions, statistics, fantasy participant rankings, participant security and hair suggestions. Catch him weekly as host of The Hockey Information Dwell and The Hockey Information Podcast.