ST. LOUIS — It’s not that the Winnipeg Jets did anything particularly wrong at Scottrade Center last night.
Sure, there were a few lapses — there always are.
But overall, the Jets were solid defensively, hit like crazy and played with emotion and, for the most part, discipline. That’s usually a winning formula in the NHL.
Unless, that is, your opponent happens to be the league-leading St. Louis Blues, who showed in spades why they are now the first team in the NHL to reach triple digits in points this season.
Relying on a stifling defensive game and taking full advantage of their offensive opportunities, the Blues improved to 101 points in the standings with a 3-1 win.
The loss was the seventh in the last eight games for the Jets, who looked like world-beaters just one night earlier in a 7-2 win at home over the Dallas Stars, but simply could not find any traction against aSt. Louis team that yields very little in the way of scoring chances — and now have a world-class goaltender in Ryan Miller to backstop them the few times they do.
"That’s frustrating — but this is what that team does. They get up by a goal and then hold the fort," said Jets goaltender Al Montoya. "We battled. That’s hockey though. We were right there — it could have been anyone’s game there in that third period."
A thin margin
On a night neither team had much in the way of scoring chances, the Blues took advantage of a slashing penalty called on Evander Kane in the third period to score the winning goal at 13:09. A blocked shot landed directly on the stick of Blues forward David Backes, who made no mistake in burying the puck behind Montoya for the winner.
"There’s nothing more that guy can do, he blocked the shot," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "But we can’t be in the box then, that’s the bottom line on that play."
About that empty-net goal
Backes was awarded his second goal of the night at 18:49 of the third period when he was slashed by Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba while he was headed for an empty Jets vacated by Montoya in favour of the extra attacker.
NHL rules allow for a goal to be awarded in those circumstances — essentially it’s a penalty shot with no goalie — but Maurice was unimpressed by the call. "I don’t think that’s an automatic goal. I don’t think it’s the slash that he goes down... If you lock feet with a guy, then it’s not unimpeded progress to the net. It should still be 2-1 in my mind."
About that brawl at the end of the game
A melee broke out as time expired that saw everyone on the ice at the time, with the exception of Blues goalie Ryan Miller, toss a few punches.
Jets winger Blake Wheeler was one of the combatants and was unimpressed afterward that the Blues had their tough guys on the ice to end the game.
"They put their five toughest guys on the ice against our five guys trying to score a goal," said Wheeler. "I think it’s bull----. But what are you going to do?
"We stuck together. That’s all you can ask for. We did our best."
Yeah, so what’s it mean in the playoff race?
The Jets still trail the Dallas Stars by four points, but the Stars now have three games in hand on Winnipeg. And it’s not just Dallas that is a problem for the Jets, with the Phoenix Coyotes — who were tied with the Stars at 75 points for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference heading into Monday night — in action late Monday in Los Angeles.
The Jets get a day off today before returning to action Wednesday night at the MTS Centre against the Colorado Avalanche.