Standing in a cubical in the Winnipeg Jets’ dressing room, goalie Ondrej Pavelec shook his head Monday night and didn’t mince words about Winnipeg’s all but extinguished playoff hopes.
The Jets had just lost 6-4 to the Ottawa Senators at the MTS Centre in a wild game that included just about everything, in particular some lax defence on both sides.
“I don’t think this is the hockey that is going to take us to the playoffs,” Pavelec said. “This is the hockey, like summer hockey, exhibition games.... After this one we can’t expect to make the playoffs.”
He’s right. While the Jets hammered Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson with 48 shots and came back from behind three times, the team made several miscues on defence including one with less than three minutes left in the third that allowed the Senators to take the lead for good. Winnipeg remains stuck with 78 points, six back of the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Down the hall, the Senators were enjoying the team’s second-straight win and getting a little breathing room ahead of Washington and Buffalo. Ottawa now has 88 points, putting the Senators four points up on both the Capitals and Sabres, which face each other Tuesday.
“Every day we learn something new about our players,” said Ottawa coach Paul MacLean. “Pressure creates diamonds, and it creates havoc. This is when the game is on the line, and you really find out who can play under the gun and who can make a play with poise under the gun. So, we’re really learning a lot about our players.”
Both teams looked sloppy early on, committing several giveaways that nearly resulted in goals. Then with just 25 seconds left in the first, Ottawa got a fluke goal when Jason Spezza fired a shot that hit Pavelec, bounced over the goalie’s head and landed in front of the crease where Chris Neil slammed it in.
That opened the flood gates and the game quickly turned into a horse race with both teams rushing from end to end.
The teams traded five goals in the second period with Ottawa expanding its lead early on a goal by Kaspars Daugavins. Winnipeg’s Antti Miettinen and Kyle Wellwood quickly tied it up before Kyle Turris gave the Senators the lead once more. But then Miettinen promptly tied it again.
The same pattern continued into the third. Ottawa took the lead early on a goal by Daniel Afredsson only to see the Jets pull even once more with less than three minutes to go when Evander Kane smashed the puck into the Ottawa goal after a mad scramble. But 24 seconds later, Alfredsson scored the game winner and Milan Michalek added an empty net goal in the dying seconds.
“I don’t think you can trade chances with their team and expect that you are going to win the game,” Jets’ coach Claude Noel said afterward. “We chased the game, we were forever chasing the game.”
Noel lamented his players’ lack of checking and inability to pull themselves together when Miettinen tied the game. “This is where you’ve got to buckle down and oaky we just need one here and we need to settle down and play,” he said. “We didn’t.”
The Senators can credit Anderson for part of the win along with their remarkable young defenceman, Erik Karlsson who picked up three points on the night.
“It was one of those games where momentum was swinging both ways,” Anderson said afterward. “We never quit ... We got the win. That’s all that matters.”