This was supposed to be the Winnipeg Jets big week. This was the start of the one time in their schedule when they could pile up points, with 13 of 15 games at the friendly MTS Centre including Tuesday’s match against the Ottawa Senators. This was when they could break through .500 and start climbing up the ranks of the Southeast Division.
“We are going to be putting our best foot forward on our home stand and hopefully take advantage of it,” Winnipeg’s head coach Claude Noel said this week. “We’ve got to make hay.”
For a team with that much motivation the Jets didn’t look anything like hay makers.
Winnipeg blew two leads and lost to Ottawa 6-4, despite outshooting the Senators 43 to 34.
“To tell you I’m disappointed would be putting it mildly,” Noel said after the game. “I didn’t think we played very intelligently... It was a game we could have won but we were unable to conjure it up. We found every way to lose it.”
Not surprisingly Senators coach Paul MacLean said his team “found a way to win”
“We bent a bit, and bent a lot, but we didn't break,” MacLean said after the game.
Neither team started out very well but the Jets, who had come off a mildly successful road trip where they went 1-1-1, seemed completely disorganized. By the end of the first period the Senators had a 1-0 lead on a goal by Milan Michalek who managed to out skate Jet defenceman Mark Stuart and blast a hard high shot over goalie Ondrej Pavelec’s glove.
Just about the only drama in the first period occurred when Jet forward Eric Fehr fell over and his skate accidentally hit Senator’s forward Nikita Filatov in the face, breaking his nose. Filatov didn’t return, marking another sad chapter in his quest to stick with Ottawa.
He has been trying to win back a spot on the Senator’s lineup after being demoted to the club’s farm team in Binghamton, N.Y., after the first six games of the season. Filatov, the sixth overall pick in 2008, had threatened to head off to the KHL if he remained in Binghamton much longer. The Senators recalled him Sunday for a game against Carolina and Winnipeg was his second start.
As for the Jets, Noel had little patience with the way his players started the game.
The Jets' first period “was pathetic,” Noel said afterward. “It was awful. It was just typical, come home from the road and we had to snap out of it and we did snap out of it and then we played in spurts.”
The spurts came in the second. The Jets tied the game on a goal by Blake Wheeler and then went ahead 2-1 when Alexander Burmistrov fired a quick blast from an odd angle that got behind Senator goalie Craig Anderson.
The Jets could have added more when the Senators fell two men short on a pair of penalties. But Winnipeg’s five on three power play didn’t connect. It’s the second time in the last four games the Jets have failed to score with a two-man advantage. The last time, against Philadelphia on Nov. 19, the team was so futile during a five on three power play Noel had them practice it the next day. It didn’t help.
The Senators tied the game up 35 seconds after Burmistrov’s goal when Zack Smith dug out a puck that Pavelec appeared to have smothered and shot it in. Pavelec said afterward he thought the play should have been blown dead. Noel seemed to agree.
“It looked to me like [the whistle]could have been blown,” he said. The referee “must have been able to see [the puck]to not blow it. I don’t know... Strange.”
Michalek then tipped in a long shot from Chris Phillips with just 44 seconds left in the second, giving the Senators the lead once again at 3-2.
The Jets tied the game again early in the third period on a goal by Kane and then went ahead 4-3 on another goal by Kane less than two minutes later.
But Ottawa came back, tying things once more when the Senator’s Jason Spezza fired a high shot that blew by Pavelec.
With 6:55 to go in the third, Jet defenseman Johnny Oduya got called for hooking Senator defenseman Erik Karlsson. The Senators promptly scored on the ensuing power play as Smith snapped a shot past Pavelec. Nick Foligno added an empty net goal to make the final 6-4.
“I don’t know, I put my stick there and kind of lost my balance a little bit,” Oduya said after the game. “It came up, otherwise I don’t know if he would have called it.”
Jet defenceman said the bigger problem for the Jets was an inability to hold leads.
“It seems like every time we score a goal we kind of sit back a little bit,” he said. “We’ve got to kind of get that killer instinct.”
For the Senators the win was their second straight victory and brings them to 12-10-2 on the season with 26 points. The Senators have been streaky this year, losing or winning in stretches.
“It was a matter of at the end of the night whoever had the momentum last was going to win that game,” Anderson said afterward. “It's resilience. We have guys in here who just don't quit. We're a hard-working bunch.”
Added MacLean: "That's a great part of the learning curve for our team, learning how to win, especially learning how to win on the road.”
The Jets, now still have 12 home games coming up in December. Up next: the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday at the MTS Centre.
If that isn’t enough motivation for the Jets to make some hay, they may have to think about giving up the farm.