Simply put, the Winnipeg Jets found a way to lose on Sunday night.
It was a new way to lose, but things ended up in a 3-1 loss to to the Nashville Predators nonetheless.
This time, the Jets (now 4-5 and 2-3 on this season-high six game homestand that wraps up Tuesday against the Washington Capitals) weren’t felled by a slow start out of the gate.
Instead, it was a tough second period led to the Jets downfall, featuring three Preds goals on just seven shots.
The Preds got a shortie from Eric Nystrom after he blocked a Dustin Byfuglien point shot just 10 seconds into a power play and 20 seconds into the second period.
Nystrom elected to shoot instead of pass on the 2-on-1 rush against Toby Enstrom.
“It was a good shot,” said Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec. “Toby did a great job to take away the pass and give me the shot. (Nystrom) just put it in.”
The second goal came after Pavelec turned the puck over to Patric Hornqvist, whose shot from a sharp angle along the right-wing boards banked in off the shin pad of Jets D-man Zach Bogosian.
“We can stay here and talk about bad luck and stuff but the luck is coming to you when you’re ready and we’re just not,” said Pavelec, who took responsibility for the turnover. “We have to be better. We scored one goal again and you’re not going to win many games. Overall, the game is not there.”
Before the period was over, the Preds made it three nothing when Matt Cullen roofed a shot seven seconds after a cross-checking minor to Bogosian had expired, ruining any momentum the Jets might have gained from a successful penalty kill.
A 3-0 hill would prove to be too much to climb for the Jets against a Preds squad that battled through some challenging travel after playing the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre one night earlier.
During a scoreless opening period, the Jets actually out-shot their opponent 15-12 but didn’t create enough Grade-A chances against Preds backup Carter Hutton, who made his first start of the season and just the second of his NHL career, allowing workhorse Pekka Rinne to take a rare night off.
On the quality chances the Jets did get, they were unable to bury them — which was a source of frustration for Evander Kane, who spoiled the shutout bid by jamming home a rebound after a shot by Devin Setoguchi and some nice work jarring the puck loose by Olli Jokinen.
Kane was asked if he thought the Jets made life a little too easier for the 27-year-old rookie NHL netminder?
“I definitely did in the first period, that’s for sure,” said Kane, whose goal was his team-leading fifth in nine games. “We had some opportunities early. Pucks go by your sticks and threw your feet and it could have been a different game. At the same time, we can’t make excuses. We’ve got to continue to fight and to push to score goals.”
“It’s one thing to get pucks to the net but getting pucks off his pads and getting traffic is a totally different thing,” added Jets captain Andrew Ladd. “I thought (Hutton) was able to see a lot of pucks tonight and we didn’t really make it hard on him.”
A frustrated Noel kept his post-game comments to fewer than four minutes and obviously wants a bigger investment from his players, who continue to struggle to find consistency.
“You can’t just play to play, you have to be more emotionally connected to the game than just playing to play, and we’re not getting enough,” said Noel.
Byfgulien led the Jets in ice time with 27 minutes and 18 seconds and finished the night minus-2, while managing six shots on goal, three hits, one giveaway, one takeaway and a blocked shot.
Obviously, Byfuglien had some issues in this one, but his valleys haven’t been nearly as low this season and he continues to play heavy minutes, most of which are quality minutes.
Speaking of Jets’ D-men, I thought Adam Pardy put in a solid effort in his first game since being recalled from the St. John’s IceCaps of the AHL. Pardy took 15 shifts for 13 minutes and 38 seconds of ice time, finishing the night even (he was on for one goal against, the one by Cullen after helping to kill off the minor penalty and then was on point when Kane broke up the shutout bid) while finishing with a shot on goal, a hit, one giveaway, one takeaway and a blocked shot.
Pardy did a better job with his decision-making and his skating, two things that occasionally gave him trouble during the pre-season games before he was placed on waivers and eventually demoted.
Speaking of strong play, I thought Anthony Peluso and Patrice Cormier did a nice job in limited action and were able to do a nice job of creating some cycles in the offensive zone. Cormier had three hits, while Peluso had a couple shots on goal and two hits during their 10 shifts.
Hutton wasn’t overly taxed, but he made 38 saves to earn his first NHL win, which was a thrill for him, especially with family (including his mom and dad) and friends from his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont. in the house.
“Pretty excited, you never know what’s going to happen, you never know how the game’s going to go, you don’t know when you’re going to start again right, so I was sitting there waiting and getting the win is huge, that’s my job. Playing behind Pekka, he’s a world class goalie so when I do get a chance to play, I need to find ways to win. That’s what they brought me in for. I think it was just a great performance, playing in front of our “D”, of course was so good, any trouble I got into they clear stuff up and they really helped me out a lot.”
I handled the snapshots for the paper today, as sports editor Ted Wyman did the game analysis column and sidebar, since he’s taking the upcoming road trip to Nashville, Dallas, Denver and St. Louis.
The snappers dealt with the Jets’ PP woes, Pavelec talking about Mike Smith’s goal and his own turnover, plus the lineup changes and the strong play of Preds rookie D Seth Jones.
I’ll be back at MTS Centre on Monday for the 11 a.m. Jets’ workout and will tee up the Capitals game, plus I’ll have a special announcement as well.