Pionk scores twice, gives Jets OT victory against Avalanche
DENVER — Neal Pionk scored his second goal of the game 31 seconds into overtime to give the Winnipeg Jets a 4-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena on Wednesday.
Pionk won it with a slap shot from the right face-off circle on a 2-on-1 with Adam Lowry.
“Shoot hard in case you hit the puck,” Pionk said. “I was going far side. I got a little lucky, but it was a good shot.
“They shot it wide and it caromed around the boards. It’s a simple play but it doesn’t go unnoticed. [Mason Appleton] used his big body, made a nice little play to me, and I put it in the net.”
Cole Perfetti had a goal and an assist, Appleton had two assists, and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves for the Jets (2-1-0), who play at the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.
Winnipeg was again without coach Rick Bowness, who tested positive for COVID-19 before its season opener Oct. 14.
“For what was it, 34 minutes, we were pretty good,” associate coach Scott Arniel said. “We turned some pucks over in our end of the rink and they got it back [to even]. Our big message going into the third is that we were in a tie game on the road. Just stick to what we had done for most of the game. That was our details and the stuff we talked about this morning, our compete and just protecting our net-front, and we found a way to win.”
Valeri Nichushkin scored for the fourth straight game, Mikko Rantanen had two goals and an assist, and Alexandar Georgiev made 24 saves for the Avalanche (2-1-1).
“That’s a hardworking team over there,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “They’re a deep team, especially the forward group. And to me, we weren’t skating or engaged enough to start. Really liked the second half of our game.”
Sam Gagner scored on the power play at 6:52 of the first period off a loose puck in front to give the Jets a 1-0 lead.
“They were skating faster on the loose pucks, just winning battles, and I think we were just not moving as we should,” Rantanen said. “It’s our biggest strength, skating. We didn’t do it in the first.”
Pionk made it 2-0 on a one-timer from between the face-off circles at 13:21 while playing 4-on-4.
“Just a great play by ‘Appy’ again,” Pionk said. “I jumped in the rush. I popped out because I couldn’t make it to the net. He saw me, made a little slip pass, and it went in the net.”
Rantanen cut it to 2-1 when he tapped in a Nathan MacKinnon pass from atop the crease at 2:14 of the second period.
“I just tried to go to the net and stop there, and we had a couple of long shifts where the defense got tired,” Rantanen said. “Nice passes.”
Perfetti pushed it to 3-1 when he one-timed a cross-crease pass from Blake Wheeler at 9:44.
“That line (Perfetti, Wheeler, Pierre-Luc Dubois) went a little under the radar; they had a really good game,” Arniel said. “They spent an awful lot of time in the offensive zone. That was probably the best game I’ve seen Cole play just through exhibition and the first couple. He was real good, real smart with the puck, and [made] real good decisions. And when he had to get back, he did a good job. That line got rewarded with good work.”
Rantanen cut it to 3-2 on a one-timer from Bowen Byram at 16:26, and Nichushkin tied it 3-3 on the power play at 18:27 when he finished a give-and-go with Rantanen from between the circles.
“[Nichushkin is] playing like he did last year. He’s skating,” Rantanen said. “He’s a really big guy. Hard to get the puck off him, so he’s doing well, and he’s scoring on his chances too. So, good to see that.”
NOTES: Forward Nikolaj Ehlers was a late scratch due to a nagging injury, according to Arniel. … Pionk’s winner was his first NHL overtime goal. He is the first Jets defenseman with a multigoal game since Tyler Myers on Feb. 16, 2019. … Rantanen has 168 goals and moved past Alex Tanguay for 10th in Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history. … MacKinnon had his multipoint game streak end at three but had an assist to extend his point streak to four (two goals, six assists). … Colorado scored on its only power play and leads the NHL at 53.9 percent (7-for-13), but it allowed a power-play goal for the fourth straight game and is last in the NHL on the penalty kill (7-for-14, 50 percent).