Nikolaj Ehlers’ three-point night leads Jets over Coyotes into wild-card spot

Jets 4 Coyotes 2

WINNIPEG — Nikolaj Ehlers had a goal and two assists to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 4-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes in a critical Western Conference contest on Monday night.

Recent Jets acquisition Cody Eakin broke a 2-2 tie at 11:33 of the third period when he picked up the puck and backhanded a shot past Arizona netminder Darcy Kuemper. It was his first goal since being acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 21.

The victory moves the Jets (36-28-6) to 78 points, four ahead of Arizona (33-29-8) and one above the West’s wild-card line.

Mark Scheifele, with an empty-netter and defenceman Tucker Poolman also scored for Winnipeg.

Nick Schmaltz scored both goals for Arizona.

Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck made 36 saves while Kuemper had 30.

It was the last of a three-game homestand for the Jets, who have won six straight home games to improve to 20-14-3 at Bell MTS Place.

After once trailing 2-0, Poolman knotted the score late in the second period when pounced on Eakin’s rebound, with Ehlers also assisting.

Ehlers pulled the Jets to within 2-1 early in the second when he took a stretch pass from Poolman at the blueline, sped around the defenders, then beat Kuemper with a soft knuckler.

The Coyotes jumped to a 2-0 lead late in the first period. With just 1.2 seconds on the clock, Schmaltz pounced on a Phil Kessel rebound and beat Hellebuyck with his second goal of the game.

After taking a pass from Kessel, Schmaltz opened the scoring when he skated around Neil Pionk and beat Hellebuyck with a high shot at the 15:50 mark of the first.

The Jets will now embark on a three-game road trip through Western Canada, with the first game against the Oilers in Edmonton on Wednesday.

NOTES: Jets coach Paul Maurice passed Ken Hitchcock (1,598) to move into sole possession of fifth place in all-time games as an NHL head coach on Monday night … Jets centre Adam Lowry returned to action after missing 20 games with an upper-body injury. He fought Lawson Crouse on his first shift.

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