No one wants to bust up the feel-good thing the Winnipeg Jets have got going on right now. That would be like peeing in the punch bowl and popping the party balloons.
So, the spin late Tuesday night out of the Jets dressing room — not long after a 3-2 OT loss to an under-manned New York Islanders squad — was all about a late rally to grab a critical point.
As for the point lost against a team that had lost four of its last five and was missing John Tavares (gone for the season), had scratched Thomas Vanek (expected to be traded) and had earlier in the day traded Andrew MacDonald?
Don’t even go there.
"It’s a point gained for us," said Mark Stuart. "We’ve got to grab them whenever we can. Now it’s just a matter of getting the next one and grabbing two."
"We were down by one goal going into the third... we’ll take it," added Olli Jokinen. "That could be a big point going forward. Overall we were a little bit tight, but this is the way things are going to be: all the teams are good and everybody wants to win."
That much was evident from the Islanders right from the opening puck drop. Despite being short-staffed and lacking some of its star power, the Isles got some big-time work from goaltender Anders Nilsson and some of their foot soldiers, especially the penalty-kill unit which completely stifled the Jets on five chances.
WHAT IT MEANS
The OT loss means the Jets are now 30-26-7, good for 67 points. That leaves them one back of the Dallas Stars, who fell 4-2 Tuesday to Columbus, but still hold the final Western Conference wild-card spot. The other bit of good news was the Nashville Predators, who are still in the Jets’ rear-view mirror, fell to Pittsburgh and are now five back of Winnipeg.
The Phoenix Coyotes, however, did knock off the Vancouver Canucks 1-0 and pulled into a tie with the Jets for 67 points.
UH-OH, MAN DOWN
Jets centre Mark Scheifele had to be helped off the ice midway through the second period after taking a hit on his knee from Isles’ defenceman Calvin de Haan. Paul Maurice said the rookie pivot — who has been so solid in the latter half of the season — will be further evaluated on Wednesday.
"We’ll have Mark tested (Wednesday) morning and get a real good understanding of what we’re dealing with," said Maurice. "I’m not going to speculate on what we think in terms of the length of this. We’ll know everything we need to know by the time we meet tomorrow."
Asked if he could still be available for Thursday’s game against Los Angeles, Maurice added: "If he goes in and it’s all clean and everything’s good, then there’s a chance. But the spectre is there now with what we think." And there’s more: Maurice said Chris Thorburn, who was in a first-period fight with Matt Martin and finished the game on the bench but was limited to 48 seconds of ice time, has an upper-body injury.
OH CAPTAIN, THEIR CAPTAIN
Andrew Ladd was the best of the Jets, scoring his 16th and 17th goals of the season, including the critical game-tying marker with just 5:07 left on a breakaway.
Michael Grabner was the OT hero after splitting the Jets’ D to beat Ondrej Pavelec — the kind of defensive breakdowns that were far too prevalent all night — but, again, the message in the home-side clubhouse was all about the rally.
"We understand there are no easy games in this league," said Ladd. "I thought we were a little tight, in the first period especially. We got a little looser as the game went on and I thought we did a good job of getting it into overtime and getting a point.
"We’ll take the positive of getting one point and move on."
THE LAST WORD: BIG PICTURE VS. SMALL PICTURE
"We’ve played some darn fine hockey here," said Maurice. "We’ve had some stretches where our compete is what got us through it — the blocked shots. But tonight at the end of the day the execution with the hands and the feet wasn’t good enough to win the game. It was good enough to get a point.
"We’ll learn. We’re a young team and we’ll learn how to get better at that. That being said, we weren’t winning our last 21 games. We weren’t. Nobody is."