Another blow for Jets in shootout loss to Canucks

- March 12th, 2014

There was a time not long ago when it seemed like the Winnipeg Jets were doing whatever it takes to find ways to win games.

It’s not like they’re playing to lose right now, but for whatever reason, the wins have been a lot tougher to come by since the Olympic break.

The latest loss came on Wednesday night in a 3-2 shootout defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, the same team that gave up a franchise record seven goals on the third period two nights earlier against the New York Islanders.

While the Canucks survived the loss of Ryan Kesler to a suspected knee injury after a knee-on-knee collision with Jim Slater near the end of the second period and got a pair of goals from the previously goal-less this season Alex Burrows, the Jets were once again left searching for answers. (Slater addressed the play in question following the game and I used his answers in my game column. Spoiler alert, Slater felt that Kesler tried to jump out of the way at the last second and it was not a dirty play on his part. John Tortorella told reporters Kesler was heading back to Vancouver to be checked out, so it appears the injury is more than day-to-day, which would be a crushing blow to the Canucks’ top minute-eater up front).

It’s not like the Jets played a lousy game, they just didn’t play with quite the same fire, speed and intensity as they managed in an OT loss to the Colorado Avalanche two nights earlier.

Yes, they created scoring chances but it would be a mistake to suggest that Canucks goalie Eddie Lack was overworked or needed to be incredibly sharp in facing ample Grade-A scoring chances as he recorded 32 saves. Lack, the former Manitoba Moose netminder, looked pretty calm for a guy who was lit up for six goals in one period on Monday night.

While Lack was disappointed with what took place against the Islanders, it’s his calm presence that the Canucks are banking on as they hand him the No. 1 job down the stretch. It’s only one game, but you can’t respond much better than Lack did this evening.

Ondrej Pavelec did his part, making 31 stops and turning aside two of three shooters during the penalty-shot contest that saw Chris Higgins give the Canucks the bonus point after all three Jets’ shooters (Devin Setoguchi, Andrew Ladd and Olli Jokinen) failed to connect.

For all of the talk about discipline, the Jets had another parade to the penalty box, taking another six minor penalties (one was a coincidental call), including three in the opening period (after taking six total and four in the first against Colorado).

The Jets managed to kill off each of the 11 during the past two games but they’re playing with fire and are sure to get burned eventually if they don’t clean that area of their game up.

As for the power play, the Jets had four chances and were unable to translate that into much activity, going 0-fer and watching Evander Kane miss the net high on a penalty-shot attempt 9:01 into the second period.

Kane’s goal-scoring slump reached 10 games (spread out by his hand injury), while Blake Wheeler has only one goal in his past 11 games and has gone six games without finding the back of the net.

Both men are creating opportunities with their speed, but this is the time of the season when the Jets need production from their big guns.

That said, I don’t see the droughts lasting much longer for either player.

Wheeler had another burst of speed down the left wing, similar to the one against Shea Weber of the Predators, during the final minute of the second period but Bryan Little’s shot grazed the post after Wheeler found him in the slot.

Ladd scored his 18th of the season to open the scoring at 3:48 of the second period, whistling home a high wrister after taking a feed from Little in the slot.

Alex Burrows scored his first goal of the season — and first in 40 games — at 15:38 of the second after Olli Jokinen lost the draw to Jordan Schroeder. Jason Garrison’s point shot landed on the stick of Burrows and he buried the rebound.

I predicted on our live blog that Burrows would break the goose-egg this evening, but to be fair, I also expected him to score against the Jets during their previous visit on Jan. 31.

Then with the game tied 1-1 early in the third, Jokinen found Michael Frolik for a nifty backhand redirection.

However, Burrows scored his second of the game, knocking a bouncing puck out of the air (showing off his hand-eye co-ordination from his days as a ball hockey superstar back in Quebec) at 11:17 of the third period.

Although Jets head coach Paul Maurice doesn’t put a lot of stock into the shootout, he said he wants his players to feel a bit of frustration as they try to find a way to snap this five-game losing streak that put their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.

The Jets are now five points behind the Dallas Stars, who hold down the final spot in the West and hold two games in hand.

With two more home games this week against the New York Rangers on Friday and the Stars on Sunday, the Jets can’t really afford to miss out on any of the four available points if they want to stay in the race.

It was always going to be an uphill battle for the Jets, given how far back they had to come from to even make things interesting.

But it’s become obvious that during the course of the final 15 games, the Jets will need to put together two lengthy winning streaks in order to play meaningful games in April.

Do they have it in them?

The Jets seemed to answer that question leading into the Olympic break.

But now that the intensity of the games has ramped up, it’s time to see if the Jets can raise their game to another level or if they’ll simply ride quietly into the sunset.

Categories: Hockey

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