Wheeler helps Jets beat Canucks, clinch 3rd place in North

NHL

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP)Blake Wheeler had two goals and two assists, Connor Hellebuyck stopped 24 shots for his fourth shutout of the season, and the Winnipeg Jets beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-0 Tuesday night to clinch third place in the North Division.

Kyle Connor had a goal and two assists, Mark Scheifele added a goal and an assist and Mason Appleton also scored for the Jets. Hellebuyck finished with his 24th career shutout.

Winnipeg, which needed just one point to secure third, will face the second-place Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the playoffs. Toronto and Montreal will meet in the other division series.

Wheeler said securing a solid victory so close to the playoffs was big.

”You’ve got to give the guys a lot of credit to keep pushing and kind of keep doing the right things and the same things,” he said. ”Ultimately when it comes to playoff time, it’s a lot harder to score goals and that’s the way you score goals. You just keep doing the same things over and over again with that blind faith that you’re going to get rewarded for it.”

It was also revealed Tuesday earlier this season Wheeler continued playing despite having cracked ribs. But the Jets captain said there was never a doubt in his mind that he wouldn’t play.

”I still felt like I was able to help the team and that was the most important thing for me,” he said. ”Certainly I wasn’t myself but if I was holding us back that would’ve be a different story but our team was still going in the right direction.”

Braden Holtby finished with 31 saves for Vancouver, which remained last in the North.

”It’s pretty obvious there’s not a lot of good things to find in that game from start to finish,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. ”We weren’t good, plain and simple. They’re a good team trying to get ready for the playoffs and we weren’t up to that level.”

Connor opened the scoring at 7:48 of the first with his 24th of the season and second in two games against Vancouver. Connor took a nice tap pass from Wheeler before beating Holtby.

Appleton had a good scoring chance with under four minutes left but Holtby made the save as the Jets outshot Vancouver 11-6 in the period.

”This is the confidence we need going into the playoffs,” Hellebuyck said. ”We can’t go into the playoffs losing, it never works. We played a really good game tonight and I’m really excited to see how we carry this forward.”

Wheeler put Winnipeg ahead 2-0 at 2:05 of the second, registering his 14th of the season unassisted. Wheeler drew an assist on Scheifele’s deflection at 8:33. It was Scheifele’s 21st of the year as Vancouver held an 11-10 edge in shots on goal.

Wheeler made it 4-0 with his second of the game and 15th of the season at 10:44 of the third. Appleton recorded his 11th of the year at 11:54.

HONORING STASTNY

Veteran Jets forward Paul Stastny was honored prior to the game, which was the 1,000th of his NHL career. With his wife and two young children on the ice, the 35-year-old Stastny – who has also played for the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues and Vegas Golden Knights – was presented with a custom art piece and the first silver stick in franchise history.

”It was emotional,” Stastny said. ”I was happy, more than anything, that my kids got to be there and my wife. Its always nice to hear compliments, compliments are nice, let’s face it everyone likes it. I don’t like the limelight. I’m happy it’s over with because I like to fly under the radar.”

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