Blake Wheeler with hat trick in five-goal first period, Jets beat Penguins 7-1

Winnipeg Jets left wing Brendan Lemieux (48) and defenceman Tyler Myers (57) celebrate Lemieux's first NHL goal during third period NHL action against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Winnipeg on Sunday, October 29, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

WINNIPEG - Blake Wheeler was more impressed with his team picking up a victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions than his individual performance.

Wheeler had a first-period hat trick and added an assist in the third as Winnipeg downed the Pittsburgh Penguins 7-1 on Sunday.

"It's all about getting two points. I think we've got every guy pushing in that direction," said Wheeler.

"We were fortunate to get the day off yesterday. It's tough when you're playing a back-to-back and the back end of a three and four, it takes a little bit of time to get going and luckily we had our legs early."

Brendan Lemieux also scored his first career NHL goal for Winnipeg (5-3-2), on a slapshot from the point at 12:20 of the third period. The son of Claude Lemieux made his NHL debut with the Jets Oct. 20, after being called up from the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.

"It feels great," said Lemieux.

"Obviously, really fortunate to have been able to get one and really excited. Every day I'm up here has been a blessing and I'm just trying to run with it."

Andrew Copp, Joel Armia and Mark Scheifele rounded out the scoring for Winnipeg.

"It's disappointing," said Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan.

"We talk about doing the right things. We talk about managing the puck the right way. We talk about staying on the right side of people and then we go out and our actions are just the opposite."

The Penguins (7-5-1), playing back-to-back road games after losing 2-1 in Minnesota Saturday, were on their heels from the start and didn't score until Evgeni Malkin's fifth of the season late in the second period.

The game doesn't help Pittsburgh's goal deficit in first periods this season. The Penguins have now been outscored 21-10 in the opening 20 minutes.

"If I had an answer, we'd probably cure it," said Sullivan.

The Jets scored three goals in a span of just 34 seconds late in the first period to blow it open. The team has played their best hockey this season in the first period, outscoring their opponents 16-8.

Copp opened the scoring with his first of the season on a short pass in the slot from linemate Sean Matthias at 1:20.

The Jets remained on the offensive but Penguins netminder Matthew Murray stymied them until 13:58, when Scheifele fed Wheeler at the side of the Pittsburgh net for just his second goal of the season.

Less than four minutes later he added another at 17:44 and Murray barely had time to take his stance before Armia made it 4-0 at 18:07. Murray, with only his second loss in regulation time this season, got the hook.

The hats rained down 11 seconds after that as Wheeler made it 5-0 at 18:18 with a goal against Murray's replacement, Casey Desmith.

The Jets lost 2-1 in overtime in Pittsburgh Thursday, one of two overtime losses this week following a win in Minnesota.

Winnipeg returned to the hot hand of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck Sunday. He has all five of the Jets wins this season.

The Penguins tried to regroup in the second period and outshot the Jets more than three-to-one, thanks partly to a string of minor penalties for Winnipeg.

But they could not get past Hellebuyck until Malkin scored his power-play goal at 17:02.

The third period saw Scheifele one-time a pass from Wheeler on a four-on-three power play at 10:28 to make it 6-1 and Lemieux's goal about two minutes later completed the scoring sheet.

Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice says he has liked the way the team played defensively in some recent games but Sunday night was an anomaly.

"Our gap was really good defensively so we could knock some pucks down and see the passes develop in front of you because you're in the right place to start," he said.

"(But) the game at 5-0 becomes a different animal."


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