ST. LOUIS — Thanks to a full-out melee at the end of the contest, the actual score of the game between the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis wasn’t known for quite some time after the final buzzer sounded.
It was 3-1, then 4-1 and then for a while, nobody was really sure.
In the end, the number didn’t matter nearly much as the result for the Jets, who ultimately dropped a 3-1 decision in a game that ended with .1 seconds left and plenty of gloves and bodies strewn on the ice.
The sting of defeat was noticeable in the quiet dressing room afterward, as Blake Wheeler, Al Montoya, Eric O’Dell and Evander Kane all spoke.
Kane was in the middle of a lot of things in this one.
The speedy winger had an excellent rush and brilliant pass that led to the tying goal from O’Dell at 1:55 of the third period.
With the teams playing 4-on-4 hockey, Kane chipped the puck past Blues D-man Kevin Shattenkirk, accelerated through the neutral zone and then found the perfect time to fire the pass over to O’Dell, who buried his third goal in 18 NHL games this season.
Kane also drew a high-sticking minor to Blues D Alex Pietrangelo, who got his stick up in self defence as Kane was attempting to deliver a big hit along the boards at 3:09 of the third, but the Jets’ power-play was unable to convert.
On a shift that featured two ignored calls — Adam Pardy should have been called for holding after tackling Chris Porter and Blues F Max Lapierre should have been called for slashing as well — Kane was too aggressive in slashing a Blues defender in the offensive zone on the forecheck.
It was a hard slash and the referees arm went up, Kane went to the box and the minor proved to be costly as David Backes scored the eventual winner during the power play, after a blocked shot by Mark Stuart (who had seven in the game to go along with nine hits) landed right on the stick of the Blues captain.
As Jets head coach Paul Maurice said after the game, Kane can’t afford to take that penalty. I’m not condoning what happened, but I understand why he was a little overzealous on the play. Earlier in the shift, it appeared the refs were putting the whistles away and Hudson Bay rules were in effect.
Regardless, I give Kane credit for making himself available and for answering a question about the penalty.
Kane wants to be part of the leadership group going forward and while nobody wants to speak after tough losses like that one, it’s part of the job and part of the maturing process.
During the past two games, Kane snapped an 11-game drought with a slick backhand on a breakaway and then delivered a sweet set-up. If he can continue to make plays like those on a regular basis, he’ll start scoring more on those high wristers to the glove side because opponents will have to respect the other parts of his game.
Injuries have impacted his goal (16) and point (34) totals in 54 games, but Kane is only 22-years-old and I’d be fairly confident betting that his best hockey is ahead of him.
O’Dell had another strong game, eclipsing 15 minutes of ice time for the second time in as many games (and just the second time in 18 games this season). This is a big audition for him and it will be interesting to see how he does down the stretch if he continues to play with Kane.
O’Dell will require waivers next season as he’s going to be finished his entry-level contract. It appears the third-line centre job will be open next season, unless Olli Jokinen is brought back at a reduced salary, and this is a chance for O’Dell to show that he should be under consideration for that spot.
My off-day notebook leads with thoughts on O’Dell’s play during the past two games, while my column talks about the importance of the Jets’ picking themselves up off the mat after a demoralizing defeat and taking the next necessary steps in figuring out what “Jets’ hockey” is going to look like as they move forward.
There’s little question the Jets played hard, but they ran into a team that is playing such a disciplined game that basically suffocates opponents.
Devin Setoguchi couldn’t handle a bouncing back and the Blues caused a little confusion as Derek Roy found Brenden Morrow just 1:44 into the second period to break the scoreless tie.
During the first two periods, the only two Grade-A scoring chances I remember were a rebound chance for Anthony Peluso in the first period and a wrister from the slot from captain Andrew Ladd after a drop-pass from Michael Frolik late in the second.
Blues goalie Ryan Miller wasn’t overworked but he was a smart addition at the deadline. Brings an upper-echelon goalie to a team that is so committed in the defensive zone and has some opportunistic scorers in the lineup as well.
I know many people are concerned about the Blues’ offensive production when the games really matter but I still think they’ve got a great chance to come out of the Western Conference and are a legit Stanley Cup contender.
As for the Jets, they needed to follow up Sunday’s decisive 7-2 win with another to keep pace in the playoff chase.
Now they face a six-point deficit with only 12 games to go and three teams to pass.
That’s an awfully tough task
In other news, Jets 2013 first rounder Josh Morrissey had a goal and an assist as the Prince Albert Raiders won a one-game playoff over the Red Deer Rebels on Tuesday to earn the final playoff berth in the Western Hockey League.
The Raiders face the Edmonton Oil Kings and will be an underdog.
As I reported on the TSN Jets pre-game show on Monday, once Morrissey’s junior season comes to a close you can expect that he’ll join the St. John’s IceCaps for the stretch drive and possible playoff run.
He’s had an outstanding season and this is probably the best scenario the Jets could envision for the smooth-skating defenceman.
A playoff run with his club team, then have him get a taste of the pro game down on the farm. Remember that Mark Scheifele did the same thing during the 2012 stretch drive and Calder Cup playoffs. It’s an important step in helping the player get ready for a second NHL training camp.
That’s all for now, I’ll check back in after the morning skate on Wednesday.
The Avalanche lost 6-3 to the Montreal Canadiens in Patrick Roy’s return to the Bell Centre, so they’ll come in with a bit of a chip on their shoulder.
Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reported that the Avalanche are planning to start Reto Berra in goal.
It will be Berra’s first start since the Avs picked him up in a deal with the Calgary Flames.
Let’s not forget that Berra made 47 saves in a game against the Jets that turned out to be a 5-4 shootout victory at MTS Centre back on Nov. 18.
Here’s a quick look at the updated wild-card standings after tonight’s action:
Minnesota Wild, 69GP, 36-23-10, 82 points (29 ROW)
Phoenix Coyotes, 69GP, 33-25-11, 77 points (28 ROW)
Dallas Stars, 68GP, 32-25-11, 75 points, (29 ROW)
Vancouver Canucks, 71GP, 31-30-10, 72 points (26 ROW)
Winnipeg Jets, 70GP, 31-30-9, 71 points (25 ROW)
Nashville Predators, 69GP, 29-30-10, 68 points, (28 ROW)