Jets fall 4-3 to Predators

- January 29th, 2014

This was a game that was there for the taking for both the Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators.

Tied 3-3 going into the third period at MTS Centre on Tuesday, the Predators got a power-play goal from Mike Fisher that turned out to be the game-winner in a 4-3 victory that helped Nashville leapfrog the Jets out of the Central Division basement.

Devin Setoguchi was sitting in the box after taking an undisciplined slashing penalty while retaliating against Preds’ captain Shea Weber after a high hit. Jets head coach Paul Maurice said the issue was addressed and Setoguchi got the message, coming out with several big hits during the third period but he continues to be mired in an offensive funk, with just one goal in 26 games now and eight overall.

Coming off an emotional 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, the Jets weren’t quite as sharp against the Predators, who were coming off a 5-1 thumping at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers and brought a little more urgency to the table than the Jets managed.

Predators rookie Seth Jones had an excellent game and the smooth-skating defenceman opened the scoring by flying around Toby Enstrom and using his long reach to stuff home a wraparound on his forehand at 3:48.

The Jets needed all of 22 seconds to even the score, with Chris Thorburn’s nifty redirection in the high slot of a point shot by Jacob Trouba beat Carter Hutton.

It also allowed Thorburn to snap a 50-game goal drought, leaving James Wright as the only forward left with a zero in the goal column.

With Evander Kane out until after the Olympic break with an infected right hand, Thorburn was bumped up to the second line with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler and had a sound outing, finishing plus-3 with seven hits and a blocked shot.

Thorburn had been close to ending the slump on plenty of occasions and there was a sense of relief that he finally managed to get the job done, though his excitement was muted in defeat.

“It felt good, but at the same time we lost. I like to contribute in the team’s success. Tonight wasn’t that case, but to get the first one out of the way it feels good,” said Thorburn, who hadn’t scored since Apr. 11 against the Florida Panthers.

Stuart, who had seven hits of his own, was happy to see Thorburn finally get on the board.

“He comes to work everyday and works so hard. He’s got such a great attitude all of the time,” said Stuart. “If that (drought) was weighing on him, he definitely didn’t show it. He’s not that kind of guy. You’re really happy for guys like that when they can get a goal. You could see how happy he was on his face after.”

The Jets fell behind a second time as the Predators got a beautiful four-way passing play that was tapped in by defenceman Roman Josi just 42 seconds into the second period.

Nashville extended the lead at 17:18 as Paul Gaustad won a battle with Jets defenceman Keaton Ellerby behind the net and found Nick Spaling alone for an easy goal.

Scheifele then scored 55 seconds later (banking his bad-angle shot off Josi) and set up Wheeler with a smart delay in the offensive zone 27 seconds later to even the score and give the Jets some hope.

“I was trying to bank it off (Shea) Weber, but it went off the other guy,” said Scheifele, who scored his 11th goal and now has scored in each of the past three home games.

Wheeler’s shot caught the glove of Hutton, but slipped over the goal-line to give him a career-high 22 goals on the season, something that was of little consolation after the loss.

“It doesn’t. At this point the personal milestones don’t mean much. There’s no gratification contributing to losses. It just doesn’t matter anymore. Maybe at the end of the year you can give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve achieved some of your goals, but you want to contribute to wins,” said Wheeler.

Fisher scored what he thought was the go-ahead goal just 20 seconds into the 3rd period, but it was disallowed immediately as David Legwand had run into Pavelec.

The second Fisher goal that stood up included some spotty coverage by the Jets, but that had plenty to do with the fact that the Shea Weber slapper hit a stick on the way to the net, bounced onto the tape of Patric Hornqvist, banked off the post and onto the tape of Fisher, who knocked it into the goal for his 14th goal of the season.

“We were in the box a little more than we wanted to be. They had a good push in the second period. We responded. It would’ve been nice to start the third five on five. That said, we’ve got to kill it off and go from there. It was a tough way to start the third period. From there we were fighting an uphill battle. We were looking at four or five guys every time you go up the ice. We still had opportunities. Hit a post or two, had a couple really good looks in front of their net. Sometimes that’s the way it goes,” said Wheeler.

The Jets hit two posts in this one, Zach Bogosian in the second period and then Scheifele clanged one off the iron with just over 11 minutes left in the third period.

“I heard it, the guy was in my lane so I didn’t really see it hit the post,” said Bogosian, who took a drop pass from Bryan Little before unloading his shot. “This is a game of inches, if that’s a couple inches lower, it’s a different story. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Maurice had no issue with the overall effort his team put forth.

“It was such a hard, grinding game, and it was a battle all the way through,” said Maurice. “That group, you could see it in their faces, coming to the bench. They gave everything they absolutely had.”

The Jets have two days of practice before returning to action against the Vancouver Canucks Friday in what will be their final home game before the Olympic break.

Coming off a defeat and eight points behind the Canucks for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference and nine behind the Minnesota Wild for fourth in the Central, the Jets must find a way to clean things up in their own end after giving up eight goals during their past two home games.

Pavelec wasn’t as sharp as he had been leading into the Maple Leafs game, so naturally there will be questions about whether or not Maurice goes back in goal to Al Montoya, who was outstanding against the Blackhawks.

It’s going to be an interesting decision for sure.

My crystal ball is still a bit cloudy on this subject, so I’m not ready to weigh in on what direction Maurice might go.

I’m taking the next two days off to get recharged for Friday’s game and the four-game road trip. Kirk Penton will handle things the next two days here.

Categories: Hockey

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1 comment

  1. Mark says:

    Nice article, Ken.

    However. Seeing as it’s a blog. I’m Just hoping more insights and opinion. And less the traditional game recap that we get already on the main sports page.

    Just a thought
    Thanks!

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