Tempers are already frayed seven games into their NHL season.
The Winnipeg Jets melted down in spectacular fashion Thursday night at the BB&T Center, surrendering two third-period leads by giving up five goals and losing 6-3 to the Florida Panthers.
That lets the struggling Panthers up off the mat. They had lost five in a row coming in and now at 2-5-0, trail the 3-3-1 Jets by just three points.
"We stay on our game plan some of the time and some of the time we don’t really want to," said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. "When we do it, the game can be so much easier for us. When we don’t want to do it, we end up doing things like taking bad penalties and turning the puck over and doing the kind of (bleep) that puts you behind."
The rewind to the start of this debacle showed the Panthers as very fragile in the first 10 minutes. They got going and eventually piled 16 shots at Ondrej Pavelec.
A goal at 5:14 on a five-on-three by Brian Campbell is offset at 16:11 by Grant Clitsome’s super shot off the post, his first goal for the Jets. Both teams have their iffy moments, so it’s one period left for the two Southeast Division points.
The Jets look like they’re ready to break back into the win column, getting a go-ahead goal by Olli Jokinen at 1:23. The lead holds for two minutes before Kris Versteeg matches it, but Toby Enstrom has another answer for the determined-looking Jets.
"We had the lead and we didn’t manage the game well," Jokinen said. "We’ve got to find a way to stay out of the penalty box. We’ve got to play a lot better."
The 3-2 lead was fine for two minutes, then Alexei Ponikarovsky took a tripping penalty behind the Florida net. Cue Peter Mueller’s goal with 15 seconds left in that penalty. Forty seconds later, Jokinen gets caught putting his stick between Jared Smithson’s skates and Alexei Kovalev converts the power play for the eventual winner.
After the buzzer
The post-game conversations ended with Jets coach Claude Noel in a foul mood, anger just pouring out of his mouth.
"You can slice it how you want, but we took a penalty behind their net and that’s not a good penalty, and the other ones are the same," he barked. "We’ve got the game in control. But the game’s a 60-minute game and it came apart in the third period."
Noel was asked if he’d sit out parties responsible for bad penalties as a way to send his message.
His rambling response: "They’re unacceptable. There are a lot of things. You can focus on the power play, you can focus on the three power-play goals. There are other areas. When you look at the game, we’re in a 1-1 game and we never started with the puck. The faceoffs were atrocious. So we chased the puck the whole time... Where did this come from? You tell me. It’s back again because you guys were singing praises, it wasn’t two weeks ago when you were singing praises; well, you’re not singing them anymore.
"Neither am I. So they’ll get managed, let’s put it that way."