WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP)Sam Gagner scored twice to top 500 career points, and the Detroit Red Wings beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 Wednesday night.
Michael Rasmussen had the tiebreaking goal at 9:11 of the third period for Detroit, Dylan Larkin had two assists and Thomas Greiss finished with 32 saves. Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill got his 200th victory.
Blashill was singing Gagner’s praises for more than just the two goals he scored.
”Sam’s really turned himself into an accountable, 200-foot player,” Blashill said. ”He’s got good poise. He’s really, really, really smart. He’s very, very thoughtful as a person and he’s also provided really good leadership.”
Rasmussen has scored in three straight games, and four of his last five.
”I think the biggest thing for young players, or any player, if you want to be a good player in this league, you have to do it night in and night out,” Blashill said. ”And so for (Rasmussen) to have a kind of repeat performance – really he’s done it probably three, four, five games in a row here where he’s been real, real good, real solid – I think that’s critical.”
Detroit won for the second straight night after beating Boston 5-3 on Tuesday.
Mark Scheifele scored for the Winnipeg, which has lost three straight. Connor Hellebuyck made 32 saves.
The Jets’ playoff hopes are fading in the Western Conference. They sit with 76 points. Nashville has the first wild card with 84 points, and Dallas has second spot with 83. Vegas, which was facing Vancouver, began the day with 82.
”Obviously we can’t afford to lose games right now,” defenseman Josh Morrissey said. ”And that’s a game we shouldn’t lose. Just with their schedule and our desperation, they’re playing on a back-to-back.”
Winnipeg interim head Dave Lowry said the locker room was quiet when he went in after the game.
”As a coach you’d like it to be loud, that you’ve won a hockey game,” Lowry said. ”I understand where the players are. I understand the disappointment. That just shows that they care. And that’s a big thing.”
The Jets outshot the Red Wings 13-5 in the opening period, with Greiss stopping some quality Winnipeg scoring chances. The goalie stood up to a Schmidt one-timer, twice denied Paul Stastny in close and made a glove save on Blake Wheeler’s breakaway.
The Jets pressured the Red Wings through most of the first period, but Winnipeg’s fortunes unexpectedly changed when it went on the power play with 1:41 left. Larkin got the puck and quickly sent a pass to the side of the net for Gagner, who beat Hellebuyck with 1:20 remaining. That was Gagner’s 500th point.
It was the third straight game the Jets have given up a short-handed goal.
Schmidt factored in on Winnipeg’s tying goal, as this time his shot from the point was deflected into the net by Scheifele at 6:01 of the second.
The Jets looked like they took the lead when Wheeler deflected in Dylan DeMelo’s shot at 9:44, but the Red Wings successfully challenged for offside and the goal was nixed. The Wings responded with a pair of shots that hit the post, one from Lucas Raymond and the other by Jakub Vrana on a breakaway.
Detroit got its second power play of the game at 5:15 of the third, but Hellebuyck turned aside the three shots he faced.
After Rasmussen broke the tie when he picked up a loose puck in the crease, Jets forward Zach Sandford was dinged with a four-minute double minor for high-sticking with 6:44 remaining in the game.
Gagner put his 11th goal of the season into an empty net with 37 seconds to go.
Jets leading-scorer Kyle Connor and defenseman Nate Schmidt returned to the lineup after their stints in COVID-19 protocols.
”I thought that we had a lot of good shifts throughout the game, a lot of zone time,” Connor said of the team. ”Maybe trying to be a little too cute with a couple of those passes. Could have been a little more direct.”
Red Wings: Host Columbus on Saturday night.
Jets: Host Colorado on Friday night to wrap up a three-game homestand.