The slumping San Jose Sharks outplayed the Winnipeg Jets everywhere but in goal.
Connor Hellebuyck made 51 saves to hold off a furious San Jose attack and Nikolaj Ehlers scored the tiebreaking goal with 1:24 left to send the Jets to a 3-2 victory over the Sharks on Friday night.
“There was a stretch there where I was praying a little bit but the guys were great about letting me see things and we scored three, so I did my job,” said Hellebuyck, who had the most saves in a game for the Jets since the team moved to Winnipeg in 2011-12. “This is the result of the pucks going my way.”
Blake Wheeler and Gabriel Bourque also scored for the Jets, but Hellebuyck was the biggest star with Winnipeg spending much of the game hemmed into its own zone.
“They punched themselves out,” Wheeler said. “In the third period, we did a lot of standing and watching them shoot it. And I suppose that takes a toll on a team after a while.”
Tomas Hertl and Barclay Goodrow scored for the Sharks, who lost their fourth straight game. Martin Jones made 16 saves.
“This one stings, but I thought we played pretty good,” Sharks captain Logan Couture said.
After getting outscored 14-4 in losing the final three games of a road trip, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer called his team “soft” before the game.
They responded with perhaps their best game of the season, but it wasn’t enough thanks to Hellebuyck and the late goal from Ehlers.
“I don’t think there’s a worse word you can be called,” DeBoer said. “But that’s the reality of it. We’ve got it turned in the right direction tonight. We had the appropriate amount of battle and grit and fight to our game. We’ve got to continue to have that.”
The Sharks scored the equalizer 48 seconds into the third period when they had an extra skater on the ice because of a delayed penalty. Kevin Labanc got the puck to Evander Kane, who sent a shot toward the net that Hertl redirected past Hellebuyck.
But they couldn’t get another one past Hellebuyck and lost it at the end.
Jack Roslovic set up Ehlers after the Sharks turned the puck over in their own zone, and he beat Jones with a one-timer for the improbable game-winner.
“We let them hang around and those one or two mistakes you make come back to haunt you,” Sharks forward Evander Kane said. “That’s what happened tonight.”
There was a big momentum turn midway through the second period. The Sharks appeared to take a 2-1 lead when Kane played the puck in front from behind the net. It bounced around and Kane ended up with it, knocking it in to the delight of the crowd.
But Jets coach Paul Maurice challenged the play for goaltender interference, and the goal was wiped off because Kevin Labanc hit Hellebuyck’s pad with his stick right before Kane scored.
Making matters worse for the Sharks was the fact that the Jets scored at the other end 31 seconds later, when Mark Scheifele found Wheeler alone in transition.
The Sharks put on heavy pressure the rest of the period but couldn’t score even on a power play when Wheeler was hampered for much of the time with a broken stick.
San Jose had a 28-9 edge in shots in the second but could only manage one goal early in the period when Goodrow completed a quick transition play started by Marc-Edouard Vlasic by scoring his fourth goal of the season.
The Jets opened the scoring in the first following a turnover near the boards by Brent Burns. Kyle Connor got the puck to Bourque in the slot, who beat Jones for his first goal of the season.
NOTES: San Jose’s 28 shots in the second period were one shy of the franchise record for any period of 29 in the third period against Florida on March 18, 2014. … Jets F Patrik Laine (lower body) missed his second straight game and F C.J. Suess was called up from the minors to make his NHL debut.
Jets: Visit Vegas on Saturday night.
Sharks: Host Vancouver on Saturday night.
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