It was a simple, but blunt message: Claude Noel wanted more compete, more will, more battle, more ‘A’ games from his Winnipeg Jets.
But a cold, hard reality was also made crystal clear in Friday night’s 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at MTS Centre: it’s hard to win a battle of modern warfare when you are packing muskets and slingshots.
And this just in... the Penguins have more weapons — more ‘A’ players — than the Jets.
"Claude made it clear this week our effort wasn’t good enough and we had to be a lot better," said Jets centre Bryan Little. "Everyone was on edge and we kinda wanted to respond for him. I thought we did a lot better job tonight.
"We just didn’t get the results we wanted."
The loss was the second straight for the Jets — and third in their last four — and dropped them to 5-7-1 on the season. The Penguins, meanwhile, improved to 10-5.
Just one glaring lapse for the Jets when Craig Adams gets three whacks at a puck in the crease to bury his first of the season. But the real story of the period was the loss of Toby Enstrom just 2:30 into the game due to injury. The Jets’ leading scorer did not return and Noel said afterward "it’s not going to be day to day."
"I thought the Toby Enstrom situation really unnerved us a bit in the first," said the Jets’ coach. "You don’t want to see anybody injured and when we came off he looked like he was in pretty big pain. The disappointment was a little tough. It rattles you a little bit."
The Jets are considerably better for stretches, out-shooting the Pens 14-9, but are still not able to beat Marc-Andre Fleury. A critical number to consider: Pittsburgh entered the game 7-0-0 when carrying a lead into the third period.
"We bury a couple of those and it’s a different game," said Andrew Ladd. "But I think we’re happy with the effort we gave. It doesn’t make the result any easier to take though."
The home side is pressuring the Pens when they take back-to-back penalties at a critical moment — and iffy interference call on Zach Redmond and a tripping penalty to Mark Stuart — and Pittsburgh makes them pay with a James Neal bullet right through Ondrej Pavelec for a 2-zip lead. Ladd would bang home his seventh with the net empty and 1:35 remaining, but Adams seals the win with an empty netter.
"I’m not sure how much of a call that was on Redmond," said Zach Bogosian. "It was kind of a buzz kill."
"They have a lot of weapons on that 5 on 3," added Ladd. "It’s tough to cover everything and he has one of the best shots in the game and he made a nice shot. There’s nothing you can really do about that."
After the buzzer
The Jets are home to Boston Sunday and then play nine of their next 11 on the road. And more of a collective effort like Friday’s performance — and some touch around the net — will be mandatory if this crew is to stay in the playoff race or nosedive out of contention.
"I thought our guys played hard. I thought our guys played well," Noel said. "They gave us what they had and that’s really what I was looking for. They left their hearts on the ice."