Missing key pieces wasn't about to keep the Winnipeg Jets down on Saturday.
With right-winger Blake Wheeler and defenceman Nate Schmidt sidelined by injuries, the Jets simply turned to less-familiar faces to overwhelm the Vancouver Canucks en route to a 5-1 win.
"That’s Winnipeg Jets hockey," said Kyle Connor, who had a goal and an assist. "That’s what we’ve been talking about all year. Next man up. Everybody do their job.
"(That’s a) great response from everybody. We needed help from everybody tonight, top to bottom. Like you saw on the score sheet, everybody contributed.”
Sam Gagner also scored and had a helper for the Jets (20-9-1), while Kyle Capobianco, Neal Pionk and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby all added goals. Pierre-Luc Dubois contributed three assists.
Capobianco made just his fourth appearance of the season for Winnipeg and Jonsson-Fjallby netted his first goal since Oct. 27.
"I love to see it," said Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck. "I love to see the guys succeed, especially with how hard they've been playing and how hard they've been working for me. I'm so excited for them.”
Hellebuyck made 22 saves and improved to 16-7-1 on the season.
Spencer Martin stopped 22-of-27 shots for the Canucks (13-14-3), who have yet to climb over the .500 bar in the 2022-23 campaign.
Vancouver, too, was missing key pieces, with forwards Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser out due to a non-COVID illness.
The absences shouldn't be an excuse, said Canucks captain Bo Horvat.
“Playing with new guys it's always tough. But at the same time, guys are always gonna be hurt and we're always not gonna have a perfect lineup and we’ve got to find ways to get it done without them," said Horvat, who scored Vancouver's lone goal.
"And it just wasn't good enough by everybody.”
A sizable contingent of Jets fans in the crowd cheered as the final buzzer went, drowning out a smattering of boos from frustrated Canucks fans.
Vancouver finally got on the board after Winnipeg's Dylan DeMelo was called for holding 14:28 into the third period.
Seconds into the man advantage, Horvat tipped a Quinn Hughes' shot in past Hellebuyck from the middle of the slot for his team-leading 22nd goal of the year.
The Canucks were 1-for-3 on the power play Saturday and Winnipeg went 1-for-2.
The Jets took a three-goal lead into the third period and refused to relent.
Gagner scored 56 seconds into the final frame, collecting a pass across the slot from Dubois and firing it in for his fifth goal of the year.
Jonsson-Fjallby followed, sending a wrist shot past Martin from the faceoff circle at the 7:59 mark to put the visitors up 5-0.
"We're not going to find any excuses, we’re gong to find solutions," said Jets coach Rick Bowness. "When you say that you’ve got to have different guys stepping up and making major contributions. Two goals from (defenceman) and Axel’s goal.
"That goal by (Gagner) early in the third period was huge, it gave us a little more momentum and gave us a little bit of a cushion."
Winnipeg jumped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the second when Pionk fired a slap shot past Martin from inside the blue line for his fifth goal of the season.
Capobianco scored from a similar spot 5:30 into the middle frame, marking his first goal of the season. His blast sailed through traffic and in over Martin's glove to put the Jets up 2-0.
Connor opened the scoring 2:51 into the game, sending a wrist shot past Martin from the hash marks on a power play.
The goal, his 13th of the season, extended Connor's point streak to eight games with five goals and eight assists across the stretch.
Josh Morrissey notched an assist — and his 200th NHL point — on the play. He, too, is on an eight-game point streak with nine helpers.
INS AND OUTS
Bowness said Saturday that his team will be without Wheeler (lower-body) for about four weeks and Schmidt (upper-body) for four-to-six weeks. Winnipeg has placed Schmidt on injured reserve. The team has called up defenceman Ville Heinola from the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose on an emergency basis.
With Pettersson and Boeser out of the lineup, Vancouver called Lane Pederson up from the Abbotsford Canucks on Friday.
HOME ICE ADVANTAGE?
The Canucks have lost two lopsided games in a row at Rogers Arena and boast a 5-8-1 home record. The squad has gone 8-6-2 in a road and are on a six-game win streak outside of Vancouver.
The team doesn't know why home ice has been a challenge, Hughes said.
“I think we're asking the same question in here and obviously we want to be a team that's hard to play against at home and clearly we're not right now," the star defenceman said after Saturday's loss.
"We say it in (the locker room), say the same things, we go to Colorado and Calgary and Vegas and these buildings and play really good hockey and just got to find a way to do it here."
Jets: Wrap a two-game road swing Sunday against the Kraken in Seattle.
Canucks: Continue three-game homestand Monday when they host the St. Louis Blues.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2022.