SOMEWHERE BETWEEN PHILADELPHIA AND NEW YORK CITY — Currently riding the Amtrak train to The Big Apple after the Winnipeg Jets lost 5-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon before a raucous crowd of 19,933 at Wells Fargo Center.
As Jets centre Olli Jokinen lamented after the game, this was a game that was there for the taking for the Jets, whose special-teams woes played a huge factor in a 3-1 lead becoming a 5-3 defeat.
“It’s very disappointing, you have a 3-1 lead in the second, 3-2 in the third and you’ve got to be able to lock those down. You can’t sit back, no matter how many goals you’re up in the NHL because teams can come back and will come back, if you relax and just try to play defence. You have to stay on them and try to get that next (goal) and push them out of the game,” said Kane.
It was a wild first period as the Jets were buzzing early and got a goal when Dustin Byfuglien smartly angled his shot off the end boards and onto the tape of Nik Antropov, who found Evander Kane with a nice pass in front for what was Kane’s sixth goal of the season at 4:48 of the first period.
The Jets controlled most of the play early and actually held a 12-1 advantage in shots before the ice began to seriously tilt in the opposite direction.
How tilted? Well, the Flyers produced the final 16 shots on goal of the period, tied the game 1-1 when Brayden Schenn buried a rebound after a high shot by Danny Briere. The Jets didn’t do a good enough job clearing out Flyers in front and Schenn pounced for the first of two goals (and three points) in the game.
To be perfectly honest, the Jets were lucky to be tied after the first period, though they nearly took a 2-0 lead. But Byfuglien’s pass to the backdoor seemed to bounce or change direction at the last moment, causing Kane to miss what was otherwise an open net.
“It just kind of got deflected a little bit. It was a good look,” said Kane.
Kane extended his consecutive points streak to six games, but wasn’t patting himself on the back afterward.
“You just want to contribute and I think it’s just part of consistency. It’s nice to get on the score sheet but right now, we need the wins more than the points,” said Kane, who has six goals and 14 points in 17 games this season.
The Jets regrouped during the second period and seemed to take control of the game after goals from Olli Jokinen (snapping a nine-game slump on a turnar0und wrister that snuck through the five-hole of Ilya Bryzgalov) and a nice tip-in by Alex Burmistrov after Nik Antropov won the draw to Byfuglien, who feathered a pass over to Grant Clitsome for a big shot.
However, the Jets got into penalty trouble in the second and let the Flyers back into it.
With Byfuglien off serving a high-sticking minor, Jim Slater won the draw but directed the puck back with his gloved hand and was called for delay-of-game, leaving the Jets down two men for 1:58.
That scenario had disaster written all over it and sure enough, Flyers captain Claude Giroux took advantage of an outstanding screen by Wayne Simmonds and blasted a shot past Ondrej Pavelec to make it 3-2.
“I’m not sure if he tipped it or not but (Simmonds) is a pretty good player, does a good job for them on the power play. And it was an unbelievable shot,” said Pavelec.
There’s no doubt about that. The shot was perfect and the goal injected the Flyers with life, with 5:36 left in the second.
Then in the third period, the Flyers pulled even with Burmistrov sitting in the box after an offensive-zone penalty for tripping as Schenn converted a sweet pass from Jakub Voracek.
“Some nights, you have off nights but we’ve got to make sure we’re making those plays,” said Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian. “For myself, on that 2-on-1. I’ve got to be able to cut off that pass. Simmonds can’t go backdoor. Those things happen and we’ve got to much sure we’re ready next game if we do take as many penalties.”
The eventual game-winner came on a suspect call to Evander Kane, who received a double minor after getting involved with Nicklas Grossmnan and then Scott Hartnell.
Kane vented some frustration after the game, as did Jets head coach Claude Noel, who couldn’t believe it when his team ended up a man down.
Simmonds capped a game that saw him get involved in a scrap with Chris Thorburn and an early assist to complete his second Gordie Howe hat trick during the past three games.
Super pest Zac Rinaldo finished off the scoring by putting the puck into the empty net just before the buzzer sounded and after the Jets put some late pressure on.
The end result saw the Jets slip to 2-1 on this five-game road trip and 7-9-1 overall, with a date with the New Jersey Devils set for Sunday at 4 p.m.
There’s not much time to feel bad about what went wrong, but it’s clear the Jets need to do a better job while shorthanded and with the man advantage if they want to get back on the winning track.
In addition to going 3-for-6 on the PK (after starting the trip strong being a man down), the Jets were unable to generate much during four power plays and are now 0-for-their-last-21 opportunities with the man advantage.
Although the Jets’ top unit of Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd were held off the board, the fact the team managed three goals from their other forwards was something to build on. Too many times, the Jets have been limited to a one-line hockey team. This was not one of them.
“A lot of guys had good games. It was nice to see (Jokinen) get back on the board,” said Noel. “On a night where the Little line didn’t contribute offensively, you had other guys step up and produce and that was good. We just weren’t able to hold onto the game. That’s the disappointing part. This scenario has happened more than once and nobody will be more disappointed than the players.”
The Devils lost 5-1 to the Washington Capitals in D.C. on Saturday afternoon, so both teams will be hungry when they square off at Prudential Center.
It was another tough game for Kyle Wellwood and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Antti Miettinen gets the call to replace him in the lineup, provided the Jets medical staff gives him the green light.
Talk to you tomorrow.