DENVER | Neal Pionk scored his second goal of the game 31 seconds into overtime and the Winnipeg Jets regrouped after squandering a two-goal lead to beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Wednesday night.
Pionk’s slap shot from the right side momentarily froze goaltender Alexandar Georgiev and nicked off the post to go in. It was Pionk’s first career overtime goal.
“Shoot hard in case you hit the puck,” the defenseman cracked. “I was going far side. I got a little lucky, but it was a good shot.”
The winning goal was set up by Mason Appleton in the other end, when he kept Nathan MacKinnon away from the puck along the boards. Appleton then fed the puck ahead to Pionk.
“It doesn’t go unnoticed,” Pionk said about Appleton’s play. “He used his big body, made a nice little play to me, and I put it in the net.”
Sam Gagner and Cole Perfetti also had goals for the Jets, who finish a difficult back-to-back with a game at Vegas on Thursday night. Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves.
Leading 3-1 in the second period, Winnipeg saw Mikko Rantanen and Valeri Nichushkin score 2:01 apart to tie it. Rantanen led the comeback for Colorado with two goals and an assist in the second.
“They’re the defending Stanley Cup champions, so they’re going to push back, right?” Pionk said. “They scored a couple goals, we broke down a few times, but overall in the third I thought we responded well.”
Nichushkin has scored in all four games this season. Rantanen’s two-goal night gives him 168 for his career. He moved into 10th place on the franchise goals list.
Hellebuyck kept the Jets in the game late by turning back a tricky snap shot from Alex Newhook and then another from Artturi Lehkonen. The Jets were outshot in the final period by a 9-5 margin.
“They were skating faster,” Rantanen said. “They were faster on the loose pucks, just winning battles. I think we were just not moving as we should and as we did in the second and the third. Our biggest strength is skating. We didn’t do it in the first.”
That’s because the Jets found a way to neutralize the speed of Colorado in the first period by controlling the tempo. Gagner had a power-play goal and Pionk added another, but it could’ve been more than a two-goal cushion, if not for several split-second pad saves by Georgiev, the newest Avalanche goaltender.
“You’ve got to be assertive,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “That’s a hard-working team over there, a deep team, especially their forward group. To me, we weren’t skating and we weren’t engaged enough to start.”
The Jets are 2-4-4 in their last 10 at Colorado.
“It’s huge,” Appleton said of the win after his two-assist night. “Stanley Cup winners right there.”
Captain Gabriel Landeskog will be sidelined approximately 12 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday in Minnesota.
“Started bugging him when he started training and getting back on the ice,” Bednar explained.
Landeskog sat out the final 23 games last season after undergoing knee surgery. He returned in time for the playoffs and had 11 goals and 11 assists to help the Avalanche win the franchise’s third Stanley Cup title.
THIS & THAT
Avalanche forward Martin Kaut was recalled from the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League. Ben Meyers was reassigned to the Eagles. … Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo played in his 400th NHL game. … Georgiev made 24 saves. … Rantanen is averaging 1.14 points per game during the month of October over his career, according to NHL Stats.
Jets: At Vegas to complete the first of 12 back-to-back sets this season.
Avalanche: Host Seattle on Friday before playing the next day in Vegas.