The Ottawa Senators could use some better travel advice, it appears.
Apparently, sleeping on electric bed sheets and eating gas station food isn’t the best for a club seemingly unable to Google better hotel accommodations or one of Winnipeg’s many fine eateries.
The only thing shocking them on Tuesday night in downtown Winnipeg was their performance after falling 5-1 to the Winnipeg Jets.
Remember: Only Winnipeggers can trash their own city.
When outsiders do, the city has the likes of Kyle Connor and Josh Morrissey to defend its honour. Such was the case at Canada Life Centre on Tuesday, where Connor dropped a pair of goals while adding a helper and Morrissey set a career-high in the points column with a goal and an assist.
Morrissey tied his previous career-best 37 points after a first-period snipe and set the new mark of 38 assisting on Connor’s first of the night.
“He has elite hockey IQ,” head coach Rick Bowness said. “Elite players are one step ahead, that’s what they see. Josh has that ability with his hockey IQ. He’s one step ahead of what’s going to happen next. That’s why he’s able to read the play, break up plays, he gets there first, his gaps — all of those things. It’s his ability to stay one step ahead.”
Both players extended their individual point streaks to 10 games, and combined forces to lead the Jets to their 21st win of the season. Meanwhile, Connor is now level for the team lead in scoring with Morrissey.
David Rittich made 35 saves in the victory, starting back-to-back games for the first time with the Jets after Connor Hellebuyck was at home battling a non-COVID-related illness. He picked up his fifth win of the season.
“We all wish Bucky could be here with us,” Rittich said. “He’s probably one of the biggest parts of this team and he’s having a really good season. So, it’s obviously it’s not a great thing we not having him here, but it feels good to have two starts in a row and finally get a win.”
Bowness said post-game that Hellebuyck will rejoin the team on Wednesday.
Winnipeg’s assault began early, with Kevin Stenlund batting in his first goal in a Jets jersey, scoring on the Jets’ second shot of the game 1:58 into the first period to give the Jets a 1-0 lead.
“I want to contribute and help the team win,” Stenlund said. “So it was a nice feeling.”
Five minutes later, Morrissey scored his sixth of the season to make it 2-0 and tie that aforementioned high.
Morrissey shimmied Sens forward Drake Batherson at Ottawa’s blue line before sending a wrist shot through traffic at 6:58, with Sam Gagner providing a timely screen on Cam Talbot between the pipes for Ottawa.
Talbot ate all five goals against on the night, stopping just 19 shots.
Morrissey reached 37 points in 79 games last season but needed just 32 this season to not only match it, but eclipse it all together.
Morrissey has 13 points during his 10-game run, scoring a goal while adding 12 helpers.
Ottawa showed life later in the period after taking a 15-5 lead on the shot clock. They’d claw a goal back on the power play after Neal Pionk was charged with holding.
Drake Batherson scored his 11th on a quick wrister at 8:28 to cut Winnipeg’s lead to 2-1.
The two-goal cushion was restored with 13 seconds left in the frame as Gagner threw up a floater to make it 3-1 on a delayed Ottawa penalty.
Gagner finished with a goal and an assist in his 996th NHL game. Barring injury or becoming a healthy scratch (unlikely, given Winnipeg’s injury situation), Gagner will hit the 1,000-game milestone next Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, a former team of his.
Despite the lead, Bowness was none-too-pleased with the opening 20 minutes.
“The whole game for me, it’s ridiculous how many unnecessary shots we give up just because of our puck management,” Bowness said. “Listen, we love the two points, we needed the win, we got it. We got away with things tonight that we will not get away with on Thursday or Friday. We made the most of our opportunities, we got some big saves when we needed them. At times we played very smart, and at times we played very loose.
“I said this in training camp, we have a lot of work to do. Tonight shows me we still do. We love the two points. We needed the win, we got it, but let’s be honest with how we played. That 5-1 is a whole lot different than the 5-1 in Vancouver where we played an outstanding 60 minutes. Again, with everything that has been going on with the team — the injuries, the travel — we needed the win. We got it.”
Connor’s brace would come in the second period.
He converted his first of the game on a sensational slap pass from Morrissey, who produced a similar assist on Mark Scheifele’s 19th of the year in Winnipeg’s 3-2 defeat to the Seattle Kraken on Sunday evening.
“When it’s there, I’ll try to use it,” Morrissey said of the sneaky pass. “Both times, loaded up to shoot and saw there was a better option back door.”
Connor’s second came on one of Winnipeg’s multiple low-to-high passes, with Pierre-Luc Dubois feeding Connor in the slot for a quick one-timer.
Dubois finished with a pair of assists and has 37 points on the season.
Winnipeg now travels to Boston to face the league-leading Bruins on Thursday before a quick turnaround in Washington a night later before entering the Christmas break.
Opportunity is now for both Jets, Heinola
FRIESEN: Retired NHLer Marc Methot latest to slag Winnipeg