Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Two minutes for being so very stupid

Dumb penalties cost three power-play goals

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PHILADELPHIA -- Truth be told, the Winnipeg Jets had a legitimate right to bitch about the officiating Saturday afternoon in the City of Brotherly Love. And they likely spent most of their Saturday night stewing about the work of the men in the striped shirts on the bus ride to New Jersey.

But here's a bigger question the Jets might want to ponder in the aftermath of their 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and in advance of today's matinee against the Devils:

Is it true what they say about "stupid is as stupid does?"

Honestly, for all the complaining the Jets did post-game about the officiating -- much of it justified, and we don't often fuel the anti-referee faction -- there is no escaping the fact the three power-play goals against were critical.

And that's an ugly movie that has been playing on a loop for much of the season.

"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 costs 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 succinct:

"Don't be stupid. Play smarter."

That's good advice right there. There's also this concern -- how many times do the Jets have to bash themselves in the middle of the forehead with a ball-peen hammer before they realize that can hurt? A lot.

Earlier in this road trip the Jets were effectively killing off man advantages. In the win over Buffalo last Tuesday they limited the Sabres to three power plays. Ditto in Thursday's victory over Carolina.

But Saturday afternoon the Jets were short-handed six times, including a two-man advantage that lasted 1:58. Dustin Byfuglien had just settled into the penalty box for high-sticking when, on the ensuing face-off, Jim Slater did the ol' trick of using his hand to push the puck backward.

And that's a penalty this season.

Claude Giroux made the Jets pay dearly for that gaffe, hammering home a howitzer a minute after Slater had saddled up beside Byfuglien that turned a two-goal lead into one.

Later in the game -- and this is the call that had blood pressures soaring among the Jet camp -- Evander Kane found himself in an after-the-whistle scrum with three Flyers. When he emerged he had been nailed for two minors, cross-checking and roughing, while Scotty Hartnell ended up with a minor for roughing.

And 68 seconds later the puck was in the Jets net behind Pavelec for the game winner after Wayne Simmonds finished off a picturesque, three-way play from Brayden Schenn and Jacub Voracek.

"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?"

A suggestion: don't get goaded into the extra minor, especially knowing Hartnell has spent his career doing exactly that.

This is a man's game played by very large dudes.

And turning the other cheek is often an invitation to be pushed around. But here's another saying the Jets might want to chew on: Good judgment comes from experience. And they've experienced enough short-handed nightmares to know better by now.

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 24, 2013 B3

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