By Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming)
WINNIPEG — Sometimes, irrelevant of how a hockey team plays on a given night, they can run into a hot goalie and be completely stymied.
Wednesday night the Winnipeg Jets fell victim to just that as Ottawa Senators backup Andrew Hammond rose to the occasion and lead his club to a 3-1 victory at MTS Centre.
Hammond recorded his sixth victory of the season in just his seventh start (6-0-1) while stopping 35 shots, including a couple highlight-reel saves while getting some help from his goalposts as well.
“The save made on Andrew Ladd is real good, but you’ve still got some belief there. You’re at 15 (shots on goal) after the first period,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice of Winnipeg’s offensive output. “You’re down one — you don’t like that. You’re a little concerned when Jiri (Tlusty) hits the post on the empty net and then when (Lee) Stempniak hits (Hammond) in the forehead off the two-on-one with all that mesh staring at you, then you’ve got a big concern.”
“It was a great pass by Adam (Lowry),” said Stempniak of his two-on-one chance. “I thought it was a good shot and he just made a nice save. You try not to beat yourself up over stuff like that.”
“On the first one I kind of lost the edge there,” said Tlusty, now with three games under his belt since his trade from Carolina on February 25. “It was there. It was empty and I was just trying to put it in but unfortunately I hit the post… It’s not easy. You definitely want those types of goals. Lately I haven’t had much luck with pucks going in.”
While Winnipeg was able to muster a goal 5:46 into the third, Ottawa (28-23-11) did their damage early with goals from Kyle Turris less than five minutes into the game, and another pair in the second period from Bobby Ryan (on the power play) and Erik Condra.
The Jets created a bevy of chances throughout the night while juggling their lines and seeing three fruitless power plays. Newcomer Lee Stempniak, acquired on the eve of Monday’s NHL trade deadline, recorded a point in his first game as a Jet with the secondary assist on Michael Frolik‘s 14th of the season.
“I was in (Lowry’s) ear quite a bit, getting some clarification on some of the systems,” added Stempniak. “It’s hard. You just try and play your game a little bit and worry about the details as they go along.”
Frolik’s goal came on a nifty set-up by defenceman Tyler Myers who remains red-hot offensively since coming from Buffalo last month. The 25-year-old blue liner — acquired in a blockbuster move alongside Drew Stafford and other assets in the trade that sent Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, and prospect Jason Kasdorf to the Sabres — has two goals and five assists in nine games with the Jets.
Winnipeg’s young netminder Michael Hutchinson made a fifth-consecutive start for the Jets but was pulled in favour of Ondrej Pavelec following Ottawa’s third goal on their 17th shot of the game.
“We didn’t have the puck in our zone too much. We did a good job of blocking shots and trying to clear pucks,” said the rookie Hutchinson, who has started 12 of Winnipeg’s last 16 games. “But we gave up a couple chances they were able to bury on. Those types of things happen, but if we play like we did tonight, that well offensively and get that many chances, we’re going to be able to score three or four goals a game like that.”
“We had a lot of chances and ran into a hot goalie tonight.”
More bad news for the Jets came to be following’s the Senators’ third goal, as All-Star defenceman Dustin Byfuglien left the game and did not return due to an upper-body injury. The team could not provide an update on his status following the game.
The Jets — now 32-21-12 with 76 points and in a playoff position with 17 games to play in their regular season — head out on a critical four-game road trip through Central Division cities Nashville and St. Louis before rounding out the southern swing through Florida for a date with the Panthers and Lightning.