PHILADELPHIA — A lousy start and offense too late was a lethal combination for the Winnipeg Jets today at Wells Fargo Center.
The Philadelphia Flyers dropped the Jets 2-1 with a goal in the first minute of the game, a shorthanded marker by Sean Couturier in the second and excellent goalkeeping by Steve Mason.
The morning start, 10:30 a.m., saw only one team ready to play at the drop of the puck and Scott Hartnell had the home team ahead in 48 seconds.
Winnipeg countered finally in the third period with Michael Frolik’s seventh goal of the season but the Jets ran out of clock in suffering their first defeat of this six-game road trip.
The Jets had won games earlier this week in New Jersey and on Long Island.
After the loss, which dropped them to 12-12-4 — and only the Edmonton Oilers have more outright losses at this point — the Jets were searching for answers.
The Flyers, now 11-12-2, seemed to find the puzzle of an early start quite easy to solve.
"Yeah, when you come into the rink in the morning it’s kind of weird but I just had a couple coffees and then I was ready to go," said Flyers centre Claude Giroux.
The Jets seemed to find it bewildering. "Overwhelmed" was the word centre Bryan Little used.
"I think you’ve got to play harder," Little said. "It’s hard to explain when someone scores the first goal... they get a lot of momentum and they sure kept coming at us. We were overwhelmed by it, how hard they came out and we weren’t ready to play."
There were points where the Jets had openings, but missing those openings hurt no more than when, after killing off a five-on-three of one minute 36 seconds to start the second period, the visitors bumbled their way through a power play about three minutes later.
That gave Couturier his opening, and that proved to the winning play.
"Obviously the first period was one where we weren’t engaged in the game," lamented Jets coach Claude Noel after it was over. "You don’t know what to expect.
"Our power play was disappointing. We can’t get anything out of it and haven’t been able to through the year. It’s not like it’s anything new for us. Finding solutions to that issue and problem is certainly a challenge for us."
As for the awful start, which saw the Jets fumble with the puck, give it away and then eventually suffer the goal after it took a bad bounce of Blake Wheeler’s skate, Noel wasn’t giving much.
"I don’t have a theory," he said. "I’ll just keep the theories to myself."
In terms of actions, Noel said there are numerous options if you can identify the problems.
"You always look for (the signs) but the problem ... there are a couple," he said. "When you look to fix things, is the problem with two or three or with a group? If you’ve got a problem with a group of four or a group of D’s, then you’ve got a heck of a problem.
"And there’s tough ways to fix it. There has to be a point here where the players get engaged among themselves and this is what tries to get rallied around after a while. In our particular case in this game at the beginning it was a whole group of forwards that I thought weren’t very good."
He couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say why.
"Is that the early, morning game?" Noel said. "That would be a poor excuse because they’re ready to play and we know what’s happening. That’s your responsibility. The questions is, how do you get it on track? You try to do different things but yelling and screaming doesn’t do you a whole lot of good. You can pound your drum all you want but it gets old."
Jets winger Evander Kane left today’s game early in the second period with a lower-body injury and didn’t return.