WINNIPEG — Connor Hellebuyck believes he’s calm in the crease.
The Winnipeg Jets goaltender had to be that as he held off the Vancouver Canucks to ensure Patrik Laine’s first-period goal was the only one needed in a 1-0 victory on Sunday.
Hellebuyck made 29 saves for this fourth shutout of the season as the Jets extended their home winning streak to six games.
“I like to think that I’m a calm goalie,” said Hellebuyck, who picked up his 25th win of the season. “I like to have things around me at ease. I think that helps the team and I like to stick to it.”
His teammates and fans at Bell MTS Place were feeling a bit anxious in the third period, when Hellebuyck was cut around his right eye. Teammate Josh Morrissey and Canuck Thomas Vanek got tangled up in the crease with under four minutes left in the game and a stick clipped the netminder. A trainer came out to tend to the wound and play continued.
“As far as I know, there was a shot coming in and I slid into it,” Hellebuyck said. “Pretty routine save and all of the sudden I have a stick poking me in the eye. I don’t really know everything in between that. Everything’s fine.”
The Jets (28-13-7) moved into first place in the NHL Central Division, one point ahead of idle Nashville.
Anders Nilsson stopped 35 shots for the Canucks (18-23-6), who had lost 5-2 to Edmonton the night before.
It was Nilsson’s sixth straight loss, but head coach Travis Green said it was a good outing since the netminder hadn’t started for two weeks.
“Great game. Really good,” Green said. “I’m happy for him that he gave us a really good game on the road against a real good team.”
What wasn’t so great was a 6-on-4 the Canucks had in the last 1:30 of the game. Jets forward Kyle Connor was called for hooking and Nilsson went to the bench for the extra attacker, but the visitors didn’t get a shot on goal.
“I’m not going to sit and pick it apart,” Green said of the two-man advantage. “We were in their end the whole time. 6-on-4, you’d like to get a few better looks, but give their team credit.”
Jets captain Blake Wheeler notched his 40th assist of the season after he sent a backhand pass from behind the net out to Laine in front and he gave his team the lead at 11:45 of the first period.
“It’s going to be like this for the next couple of months, but everybody here in this locker room is comfortable with that kind of game and that’s the reason why we’re winning,” Laine said. “We’re a tight defensive team and we’ve got to score on the few chances that we get.”
Canucks centre Bo Horvat was back on the ice after missing 18 games with a broken bone in his foot suffered on Dec. 5.
“It took me a little bit to get going, get my legs under me and my timing back, but as the game when on I felt it got better and better,” Horvat said. “Obviously not the result we wanted, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
Winnipeg has a two-game road trip before the all-star break, starting Tuesday in San Jose and Thursday in Anaheim. The Canucks host Los Angeles and Buffalo on the same days.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press