Steve Mason worked hard in practice, stayed ready whenever he was called to make a spot start or come in for mop-up duty.
But when the losses kept piling up and that first victory remained out of reach, Winnipeg’s backup goalie wondered when he would finally break through.
He did Saturday night, keeping Winnipeg in a close game early while stopping 29 shots overall to help the Jets rally from an early hole to beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1.
“It’s been a long time coming; I haven’t wanted to win this bad in a long time,” said Mason, who was 1-3-1 before Saturday. “It felt good to get it.”
Mason stands tall
The Jets lost 5-2 to Vegas on Friday night, ending their points streak at nine games. They fell behind in the second game of the back-to-back, but rallied behind Mason and Mark Scheifele.
Mason, who came on in relief for Connor Hellebuyck against the Golden Knights, was sharp in his first start since Oct. 27, helping the Jets withstand Arizona’s early push with some difficult saves.
Matt Hendricks scored his first goal of the season in the second period and Scheifele beat Antti Raanta for his 100th career goal in the third. Scheifele also had an assist on Kyle Connor’s goal later in the third period, giving him seven goals and 12 points the past seven games.
Tack on another point for @markscheifele55. He’s got nine in his last five so far. #WPGvsARI pic.twitter.com/usrkCgFml8
Patrik Laine scored an empty-net goal to score in his fifth straight game to wrap up Winnipeg’s fifth win in seven games.
“It was a good bounce-back win,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said.
The Coyotes went winless on a three-game road trip, but have been playing better, earning four points over their previous four games.
Arizona played well early, but lost yet another lead after Zac Rinaldo scored in the first period. Raanta stopped 17 shots for the Coyotes, who dropped to an NHL-worst 2-14-3
“They got their chances and they capitalized,” Rinaldo said. “That was the difference.”
The Coyotes had scored first in 12 of their first 18 games, tied for best in the NHL. They did it again Saturday night, putting relentless pressure on the Jets until a shot by Alex Goligoski hit Rinaldo amid a mass of bodies in the crease and caromed past Mason.
Holding those leads has been a problem and the Coyotes failed again.
Hendricks scored the tying goal, shooting a loose puck from the slot that appeared to hit Coyotes forward Brendan Perlini’s stick and caromed off Raanta’s left shoulder.
Hendy gets his first as a Jet to put Winnipeg on the board!#GoJetsGo #WPGvsARI pic.twitter.com/jtZONrV3L3
Scheifele scored on a power play in the third, beating Raanta to the stick side on a shot from the left circle. The Jets who have one of the NHL’s best power plays, finished 1 for 2 with the man advantage while Arizona went 0 for 4.
“The difference in this game was special teams,” Coyotes forward Derek Stepan said. “They took advantage on their power play and we didn’t.”
Connor one-timed a feed from Scheifele behind the net to put Winnipeg up 3-1.