VANCOUVER – For Blake Wheeler and the Winnipeg Jets, it really was the best of times. Followed by the worst of times.
A record-breaking night for the captain, which included his long-awaited first goal of the year, ended with a twist on the ice in agony, squeezing his right knee after suffering a serious illness in the third period. That added injury to the possible insult of a 4-3 shootout loss to Vancouver in which Winnipeg had many glorious overtime chances to snatch the bonus point from the hosts.
“It’s going to take a while. We will have it reviewed (Saturday). I’m not a doctor, but it’s going to take a while, ”said somber Jets coach Paul Maurice after the game at Rogers Arena. “We’re going to heal him, we’ll find other players and we’ll find a way to do it without him.”
The concern was shared by many teammates, who came to celebrate Wheeler and his notorious durability when he skated in his 1,000th career regular-season game last Sunday.
“It was hard to see him on the ground like that. We just have to hope and pray for good news when we get more results. That’s all we can do,” said teammate Mark Scheifele. “We know he’s a warrior, he plays pretty much everything. Obviously there is always hope that he will come back. I hope we have better news when we get home and the doctors will examine it. All we can do is pray for good news. ”
Winnipeg, which plays on the road for a second night in a row after Thursday’s 3-0 win in Seattle, drops to 13-9-5 but is back above the line for the Conference playoffs. West with a single point. Vancouver improves to 11-15-2, including 3-0-0 under new coach Bruce Boudreau.
Maurice wasn’t lying when he said that Wheeler’s work, with Scheifele and Kyle Connor, could have been “as good as I’ve seen that line play”. They were absolutely dominant until Wheeler fell into a heap near the middle of the third period, the result of Jets defenseman Nathan Beaulieu accidentally slipping against him after getting tangled up with forward from Vancouver Vasily Podkolzin in a chaotic scrimmage in front of Winnipeg’s net.
“They were playing very well. They were buzzing, ”Jets forward Andrew Copp described the game in the top three.
“We pretty much dominated those extra time. Breakaways, two-way duels. I think one of them lost their cup every now and then at the post or whatever. We had our chances, sometimes you have to. tip your cap, Demko made some big saves and held them in, ”said Scheifele.
“We played a great game. We did a lot of really good things. Sucks the shootouts will be the way to end it. You wish you could play three on three forever, until someone mark. This is how it is, we have to be happy with our game and look at the good stuff. Now we have some time to rest which is good. We have to take advantage of it and be ready for a little break here. ”