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VANCOUVER – Christmas came early for Laurent Brossoit and his family.
Winnipeg Jets backup goalkeeper was gifted in his hometown on Saturday night in front of more than two dozen loved ones, then stole the show absolutely by stopping all 40 shots he faced leading his team to a 1-0 win over Vancouver Canucks.
Mark Scheifele scored the only goal in the game with 1:32 back in the third period when you surprised the audience at the Rogers Arena, which had been in a festive holiday mood all night.
"This is one of those games I don't think I will forget. To get as many shots and the game goes as it did to get my first shutdown here in the building I grew up in, it was definitely a special one moment, Brossoit said, which is now 8-0-1 in nine starts this season.
Signed as a free agent last July for $ 650,000, the former Edmonton Oilers backup that spent much of last season playing in AHL, has been brilliant almost every time coach Paul Maurice calls his number to give start Connor Hellebuyck a break.
"He just didn't give us a reason not to start him. As much as he is in the games, he is good in practice. Push hard to get better all the time. A really good personality in the room and if he was on one long-term deal, I would talk more nice things about him, but we must first sign him, "Maurice said after the game.
Winnipeg improves to 24-10-2, good to first place in the Central Division, first place in the Western Conference and second to NHL behind Tampa Bay. They are now 11-2-0 in their last 13 games as they enter the holiday break.
"It feels pretty good. Exciting I think we deserve what we've played the last few games. We just have to take a little break and then get into it," said Nikolaj Ehlers.
Jets are also a perfect 10-0-0 this season when they enter the third period tied. It includes contiguous games on this road trip when Ehlers hit a 3-3 tie on Thursday night in San Jose with 3:07 back, and then Scheifele pulled off the late-game magic Saturday night.
"Well, what we want to do is work for a whole 60. We had a lot of chances in the first two periods, but we continued. We didn't give up. We kept shooting each other up and then we got a break" said Ehlers.
Much like the game in San Jose, the jet planes were badly shot by Vancouver by a 40-23 count. But all that took was a chance when Blake Wheeler fed the Dustin Byguglien, who found Scheifele open on the left for a perfect hour time that struck Jacob Markstrom. Scheifele now has 22 goals this year, second to Patrik Laines 23.
"It was a grinder, it was not easy (The Canucks) played really hard, really well. And our guitarist was our best player. As usual, we do, and Wheeler and (Scheifele) join in and do just a Great passing games at the end of the game at the end of a long stretch of hockey, "said Maurice.
The Jets just finished a stretch of nine games in 16 days, but more than weathered the storm and won seven of them at a time when other Central Division clubs such as Nashville, Colorado, Dallas and Minnesota are all wandering.
"We talk a lot about living the day. So we are happy where we are, we enjoy the victory and 50 points get you halfway to the playoffs, so there is a lot of work to do," said Maurice.
Brossoits eight wins are the same number of jets were all last year from backup goalkeepers Steve Mason (five), Michael Hutchinson (two) and Eric Comrie (en).
"It's great. I've skated a little with him in the summer and I knew what kind of caliber the goalkeeper we got. He's stepped in and exceeded everyone's expectations. He's been incredible to us and that's good when you have two goalkeepers "Come in and play the way they've been. You can trust them pretty much the same. It's great to see him play so well," said defense Tyler Myers.
"It's his hometown, a game before Christmas, and he's going to enjoy his family and enjoy the shutdown. It was a great game for him."
Jets had a couple of injuries scaring Saturday night.
Wheeler took a Byglyl battles shot to the middle of the first shift of the game and was in obvious distress when he went to the changing room. However, he only missed a switch and was apparently not the worse for wear.
"He's perhaps the hardest guy I've ever trained. I've had guys with knee-shaped ribs, knee surgery, but he left the bench a lot of times when I didn't believe he'd come back. Come back – and he falls Certainly nothing, it was close, "said Maurice.
Brandon Tanev also took a knee in the face during a first collision and a little facial injuries that returned to the second period with a full shield on the helmet. The jets were already without forward-looking Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp, who are dealing with upper body injuries, but are expected to return soon.
Winnipeg returns to action on December 27, when hosting the Calgary Flames at Bell MTS Place.
Mike McIntyre grew up and wanted to be a professional wrestler. But when the dream fizzled, he put his whole hanger into becoming a professional writer.
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