PHILADELPHIA – An old wound was opened up Saturday afternoon by the Winnipeg Jets who, after a brief respite, have again taken the word "special" out of "special teams."
The Jets squandered a 3-1 second-period lead and -- largely as the result of an ineffective power-play and three power-play goals against -- fell 5-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday afternoon. The loss ended a three-game road losing streak and exposed an area of weakness that is costing the Jets games.
Their league-worst penalty kill unit, which had been steady in the first two games of this road trip, was back to its old self again as the Flyers went three for six with the man advantage.
"We lost the game ourselves," said Ondrej Pavelec. "I thought it was going well for the first two periods. We scored some goals, we won the battles, we battled hard. And then we go to the third and take two stupid penalties and it cost you the game. That’s the end of the story, pretty much."
Asked what the team has to do to reverse the trend, Pavelec was blunt: "Don’t be stupid. Play smarter."
The Jets carried a 3-2 lead into the final period courtesy goals by Evander Kane, Olli Jokinen and Alex Burmistrov. But the Flyers got power-play goals by Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds in the third and then put an exclamation point on the win with an empty-net goal by Zac Rinaldo with one second remaining.
Simmonds’ game-winner came with Evander Kane serving a double-minor for cross-checking/roughing after a scrum that included Scotty Hartnell and other Flyers. Hartnell was the only Flyer player penalized.
"I don’t know, I guess when it is two-on-one in a scrum you can’t take that extra minor," said Kane. "I’m not going to comment on the refereeing because I’m just going to get in trouble. The whistle went and (Flyers’ defenceman) Niklas Grossman had been running around with his head cut off for the whole game… he’s just trying to go after guys out there and I was just trying to protect myself. There’s another guy that jumps on you… what are you going to do?"
Noel asked the officials for an explanation on why Kane drew the extra minor. And…
"You know what, the explanations that I got weren’t very good," said Noel. "Let’s just put it that way. I don’t want to comment on any of those because when you look at some of the situations that we put ourselves into penalty-killing problems, I think it’s really difficult for a player to try and figure out where the line is and where the calls are, and what are real and what aren’t.
"If you look at the tape, which I’m hoping if they (the officials) do, then they can make that judgment."
This is the third of a five-game road trip for the Jets, which continues tomorrow afternoon in New Jersey and wraps up Tuesday night in New York against the Rangers.
Words that have been seldom written during the days of the Winnipeg Jets’ rebirth: the team is on the verge of tying a franchise record for consecutive road wins.
The Jets meet the Philadelphia Flyers this afternoon (noon, TSNJets/TSN 1290) at Wells Fargo Center with a chance to extend their road-winning streak to four games. If they can accomplish that, not only will they draw back to .500 at 8-8-1, they will remain in the Eastern Conference/Southeast Division playoff race, but they’ll tie the modest mark last reached in February of 2009 when the team was the Atlanta Thrashers. A four-game road winning streak has been achieved three times in the franchise history.
Ondrej Pavelec is expected to start in goal again for the Jets while the club will rely on their top line of Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler for their offensive punch. That trio has combined for five goals and three assists in the wins over Buffalo and Carolina that have helped breathe life back into the 2013 season.
The Flyers, meanwhile, will get a boost with the return of forward Scott Hartnell for today’s game. Philly head coach Peter Laviolette announced this morning that the 30-year-old winger will return for the first time since suffering a broken left foot on Jan. 22nd. He has missed the last 16 games.
Philadelphia is coming off a 5-2 loss to Florida on Thursday, a game in which the team surrendered three goals in the first 10:15 of the game and saw goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov yanked from the game. The Flyers are 0-7 when surrendering the first goal of games this season.
"I feel like exhausted," Bryzgalov told Philly radio station 94 WIP on Friday. "I'm pretty sure the team feels the same way. Lots of travel, lots of games. It's a lot. Sometimes it's just tough to play with energy and emotions, even though you know it's an important game."
That will draw little sympathy from the Jets, of course, who are the only team in the Eastern Conference that won’t play a game in their time zone this season and spend considerably more time in the air travelling than the Flyers.