EDMONTON — The Winnipeg Jets are on a roll heading into the new year.
Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves to record his third shutout of the season on Sunday as the Jets blanked the Edmonton Oilers 5-0 for their third straight win.
"Our defencemen have been so good all year," Hellebuyck said. "They keep it to the outside and they let me see shots, they're not getting too many deflections against me. Those things are small details, but they're huge and I think that makes the biggest difference."
Kyle Connor and Bryan Little each had a goal and an assist for the Jets (23-11-6), who have gone 5-1-1 in their last seven games to move into first place in the NHL's Central Division. Marko Dano, Blake Wheeler and Mathieu Perreault also chipped in.
"There were very few times where we were caught on the wrong side of the puck," Wheeler said. "We were trying not to let their top guys get top speed going, trying not to let them play with a lot of time and space."
Cam Talbot turned aside 33 shots for Edmonton (17-19-3), which has dropped three straight.
"We were outworked, simple as that," said Oilers coach Todd McLellan. "When you're out-worked, out-hustled, out-skated, out-grinded and out-committed, the rest isn't going to be in place. That's the biggest disappointment for me.
"It's concerning. Especially playing at home at this time of the year when we had something good going. Pre-Christmas we were on a roll and felt good about ourselves. But that doesn't happen automatically, you have to show up and at least attempt to out-work the other team. We had none of that today."
Winnipeg started the scoring on its first shot of the game just 2:34 into the first period after a great three-way passing play that saw Matt Hendricks spot Dano at the side of the net for an easy tap-in before Talbot could get across. Dano had been a healthy scratch for the previous 30 games, dating back to Oct. 27.
"You feel for the guy, he's worked so hard, he has such positive attitude and he's a great team player and I was very happy he was able to get one tonight," Hellebuyck said.
Winnipeg made it 2-0 with seven minutes remaining in the opening period as Connor stripped the puck deep in Oilers' territory and sent it out front to Wheeler, who scored his 11th goal of the season.
The Jets padded their lead 11 minutes into the middle period, as a Patrik Laine power-play shot was tipped in by Connor.
Winnipeg added a back-breaker with 2.5 seconds left in the second as another Oilers giveaway led to a goal by Little.
Perreault made it 5-0 before the midmark of the third with a power-play goal.
Both teams are back in action on Tuesday as the Oilers play host to the Los Angeles Kings and the Jets travel to Colorado to face the Avalanche.
Notes: It was the final of three meetings between the Oilers and Jets this season, with Winnipeg winning the previous two encounters… New Year's Eve games have not been kind to the Oilers over the last couple decades, as they came into the game having not won on that date since 1985, going 0-11-4 in that span… The Jets had a few holes in their lineup with the likes of defenceman Dustin Byfuglien (lower body), centre Mark Scheifele (shoulder) and winger Brandon Tanev (lower body) all out with injuries.
Shane Jones, The Canadian Press