By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
WINNIPEG — If one game had to be indicative of the Winnipeg Jets’ entire season, Monday’s 6-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators was just that, as it proved to be curiously emblematic of the Jets’ ups and downs since the NHL officially returned to the Manitoba capital nearly six months ago.
A tough but hard-fought start (October through mid-November), followed by a high-flying and high-scoring second period (mid-November through the new year), concluding with some very sloppy play to start the third (January), fighting tooth-and-nail to the end — but inevitably coming up just short.
Watch post-game reaction:
The defeat all but mathematically eliminates the Jets from the Eastern Conference playoff race (0.6% via sportsclubstats.com) with six games remaining in their regular season.
Trailing 2-0 early in the second period on goals from Chris Neil and Kaspars Daugavins, the Jets came flying back to tie the game in a four-minute span on markers from Antti Miettinen and Kyle Wellwood. A nifty Jason Spezza dangle in the Winnipeg zone late in the frame resulted in Kyle Turris netting the go-ahead goal before Miettinen answered back with his second of the game just 20 seconds later, keeping things tied up.
The third saw an early Zach Bogosian turnover in the Jets zone that Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson picked up and fed to captain Daniel Alfredsson, making it 4-3 Ottawa. Winnipeg’s sloppy play continued aside from goaltender Ondrej Pavelec who remained sharp, stopping 29-of-34 before being pulled for the extra attacker inside the final two minutes.
The Jets began pressing with roughly six minutes to play, racking up a season-high 48 shots on Ottawa’s Craig Anderson. Evander Kane’s equalizer — after a booth review — with 2:57 remaining provided hope, but Alfredsson responded just 24-seconds later to dash Winnipeg’s chances of staying in the hunt.
“We were trying to win the game,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “Sometimes you’ve got to take risks. (The players) have given their heart and soul to this team… We needed to be better as a group, and we weren’t good enough.”
“When you’re a little older like (Ottawa), you can settle things down and not get caught up in the emotion,” added Noel when discussing the momentum-swinging third period. “Sometimes you can get caught up in the emotion if you have a little bit of youth on your side. The other thing is the fans and the exuberance of things (at MTS Centre) really gets you going too, and you lose sight of things.”
The NHL’s sixth-youngest team still has a handful of games to play before their inaugural season in Winnipeg comes to a close. The Jets host the New York Rangers on Wednesday night before heading out on a four-game road trip. They conclude the season at MTS Centre against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, April 7.
ChrisD.ca video/Darrin Bauming