WINNIPEG — Rick Bowness continues to be impressed with the hockey smarts Winnipeg Jets’ defenceman Josh Morrissey is displaying this season.
Morrissey had a goal and assist, and Kyle Connor scored twice and added one helper, as the Jets downed the Ottawa Senators 5-1 on Tuesday.
Connor and Morrissey both extended their point streaks to 10 games. Morrissey also reached a career-high for points with 38.
“He has elite hockey IQ, that’s what he has,” Bowness said of Morrissey. “Elite players are one step ahead, that’s what they see.”
Case in point was Morrissey’s heads-up pass to Connor in the second period. It looked like Morrissey might shoot, but instead he quickly sent the puck over to Connor and he fired it into the open side of the net at 1:02 to make it 4-1.
“Maybe next time I shoot it, who knows?” Morrissey said. “But if a guy is there I’ll try to make that pass.”
Kevin Stenlund and Sam Gagner had the other goals for the injury-riddled Jets (21-10-1), who are 3-3-0 in their past six games.
David Rittich made 35 saves for Winnipeg. It was the first time this season the netminder has started consecutive games. Connor Hellebuyck was missing because of a non-COVID illness.
“It’s not a great thing (we’re) not having him here, but it feels good to have two starts in a row and finally get a win,” said Rittich, who was in net for Winnipeg’s 3-2 loss Sunday to Seattle and is now 5-3-0 this NHL season.
Bowness said Hellebuyck would be on the team’s upcoming two-game road trip.
Drake Batherson scored a power-play goal for the Senators (14-16-2), who are 4-2-0 in their past six games but went 1-2 on this latest road trip.
Cam Talbot stopped 19 shots for Ottawa.
“Not good enough, bottom line,” Talbot said. “We weren’t ready to start and they made us pay early.”
Winnipeg led 3-1 after the first period and 5-1 heading into the third.
“We’ve got to provide more offence than that from our top guys,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “You’ve got to find ways to put the puck in the net five on five and create more. Their top players found the net tonight.”
Playing in his fifth game for the Jets, Stenlund batted in his own rebound to record his first goal of the season at 1:58 of the opening period.
Morrissey made it 2-0 five minutes later when his shot went through traffic for his sixth goal of the season.
Batherson fired in a one-timer on the power play at 8:28 to trim the deficit to 2-1. Alex DeBrincat registered the first assist while playing in his 400th career game.
Gagner scored with 13 seconds remaining in the first period to give Winnipeg a 3-1 lead.
“You can’t allow goals in the last minute of a period, that’s for sure,” Senators forward Parker Kelly said. “Like I said, we’ve just got to flip the page here and regroup. We’ve really got to win these two games before the (Christmas) break.”
The Senators outshot the Jets 16-10 in the opening period.
“We don’t give them a lot, but hockey is a game of mistakes and we probably did less than them and we take the win,” Rittich said.
Connor notched his 14th and 15th goals of the season in the second period.
After his first goal made it 4-1, he scored his second with 5:37 left.
ALREADY A CAREER BEST
Morrissey’s goal and assist gave him 38 points in 32 games, one more point than the 37 he produced in 79 games last season.
Playing in his seventh full NHL season, the Calgary native’s 38 points is second among the league’s defencemen. San Jose’s Erik Karlsson had 41 points heading into Tuesday’s late game against the Flames.
Morrissey’s 10-game point streak includes one goal and 12 assists. He and Connor are tied for the lead in team scoring.
POINTS PILING UP
Connor’s 10-game point streak features seven goals and 10 helpers.
Batherson’s point run moved to nine straight games, with six goals and seven assists.
Jets: Begin a two-game road trip Thursday against the Boston Bruins.
Senators: Host the Washington Capitals Thursday in the first game of a three-game homestand.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20, 2022.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press