Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets put on sorry exhibition

Play like it's a pre-season game in awful loss to Lightning

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TAMPA BAY, Fla. -- Well, of course they didn't mean to do it.

But the Winnipeg Jets, who on occasion have lamented the lack of pre-season games for anyone in this lockout-shortened season, went out and played one on Friday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

They did all the wrong things quickly and the result of this NHL contest was over 26 seconds into the second period, at 4-0.

Maybe earlier.

From then on, it was just a workout, a veritable exhibition game for them long before the Tampa Bay Lightning actually deposited the two Southeast Division points in the standings bank. At least it gave a thoroughly beaten and outmatched team an excuse to do some experimenting and evaluating.

The week went very wrong for the Jets after something of a bad break in Montreal -- a winning goal that went in off the skate of one of their own players.

Then Dustin Byfuglien, their most impactful defenceman, went out with a mystery injury in Florida on Thursday, and things went from bad to worse.

Three power-play goals against in that 6-3 loss, and three more Friday night in an eventual 8-3 trouncing, and voila, you have a team that's league-worst in penalty killing at an embarrassing 59.2 per cent.

The Jets limp home losers of three straight -- they started off the trip as winners of three in a row -- and at 3-4-1.

Instead of lashing out, which Jets head coach Claude Noel did on Thursday, he was soft-spoken and sombre on Friday.

"Obviously the game got out of hand," Noel said. "You can spin it in any negative fashion you want and obviously we're all aware of what took place. I know it was out of hand. There were some things in the third that I thought we did. I know they didn't compete as hard as we'd have liked, but for us we're going to move forward and try to take some positives out of this thing.

"We have a game on Tuesday and a couple of practices and we're going to move forward. I'm not going to dwell on that type of game."

The Florida Panthers visit the MTS Centre on Tuesday and Noel wants the focus turned there quickly.

In that light, he declined to explore the scoldings or recriminations during or after Friday's defeat.

"I'm not going to go in those details," he said. "That's really inside the room. I don't think anybody's happy about it. How could you be? The one thing I know is that the players care and they care about their game and they care about each other.

"We're going to build off of that and we're going to get some positive vibes off this thing and it'll start in practice and it'll go from there. We need a couple of good days and then we need to prepare for Florida and we need to turn this thing back to the way that we're capable of playing."

Jets captain Andrew Ladd also chose not to overreact after such a one-sided loss on Friday.

"I think in terms of the way we want to play, it's obviously not a right step and we'll work to get back to the identity that's going to make us a successful hockey team," Ladd said. "It's part of a season and you have to deal with and find ways to get momentum going the other way and get playing the right way."

He echoed Noel's wish to move forward, no matter how deep the rut.

"We'll try to use this as a wake-up call," Ladd said. "It's too short of a season to dwell on it. We've got to find a way to stay positive, correct this penalty thing and move forward."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 2, 2013 C1

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