WINNIPEG — The home-ice mystique of the MTS Centre may not be gone for good, but it was on holidays this week and the Winnipeg Jets suffered greatly for it.
With Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Jets played three well-regarded Eastern Conference opponents here this week and lost three close games.
Since their troubling, penalty-filled debacle in Tampa more than two weeks ago, Winnipeg has played six straight one-goal games (discounting one empty-net goal) coming out of that 2-4-0, but has lost four in a row at home.
"You have to play on the road so you’re going to have to have that," Jets coach Claude Noel said after another tight loss. "You have to play a better team game.
"Right now, we’re not playing... we’re playing OK, we’re working but we have to check the puck back better, there are some things we have to do better.
"But it’s not like we can’t win on the road. We’ve proven that we can do that (they have wins in Washington and Ottawa this season), so we’ll focus on that task in that game and go from there.
"I wouldn’t look at it like the dark side like you’re looking at it."
With a record of 3-5-0 at the MTS Centre and a team not known to be terribly strong away from home, the Jets are in a pretty pickle as they look into the coming week and see five straight road games on the docket.
With 11 points in 14 games to date, only one team, Columbus, is lower in the NHL standings.
"We are battling hard but at the end of the day we’ve got to string some wins together," said Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian. "We’ve just got to keep working and hopefully those bounces will go in for us.
"Special teams are how you’re going to win in this league and we didn’t do a very good job on special teams today."
The Jets failed to kill Boston’s only power play — Brad Marchand had the game-winning goal early in the third period — and were zero for two on the power play, including a chance with 6:19 left in the game.
"I think our hearts are in the right place, we just have to dig down deeper and deeper and go through it as a group," Bogosian said of the recent skid, which has included a completely dry power play for five straight games. "We can’t just have a couple of guys going. We have to have everyone going on the team."
A short, killer stretch emerged on Sunday afternoon.
Evander Kane scored with just 26.3 seconds left in the second period to put the home team ahead again, 2-1, but Daniel Paille redirected a point shot behind Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec with just 1.5 seconds left in the frame to deliver a "buzz-kill," as Bogosian put it.
"You have to win battles at key times of the game," Pavelec said. "We play hard but it’s not enough."
Noel was particularly miffed at that lapse, which carried over into the third period when defenceman Ron Hainsey took a penalty for tripping Boston’s Brad Marchand just nine seconds into the period.
Marchand then scored the winner off the rush at 36 seconds.
"There were a few mistakes on that," Noel said. "It ends up in our net. You can see the importance of getting pucks to the net.
"I’m pretty disappointed in the game. I thought we battled, put more shots at the net but still thought we passed up on quite a few of them that we really could have put more there.
"From the end of the second period to the start of the third, taking that penalty, that’s the difference, the disappointing thing, the way that it unplayed.
"Then you’re chasing the game."
Noel said he was a big fan of the way the line of Alex Burmistrov, Kane and Nik Antropov played Sunday afternoon.
Burmistrov and Kane both scored in the second period to give the Jets leads. For Kane, the hard-won rebound goal from the edge of the crease was his fourth of the season but his first goal in nine games.
"It was nice to see them get on the board," the coach said.
Kane said he was disappointed that his team couldn’t overcome the turnaround at the end of the second period.
"You don’t want to give up a goal when you score at the end of a period but at the same time, you’re still tied going into the third period at home so it’s not like the worst situation you can be in," he said.
Burmistrov, who now has two goals this season, sounded very frustrated after yet another home loss.
"It’s another tough game, another one we should win," he said. "It’s been tough, tough when you’re winning the game and you’re playing good and something goes wrong and you lose the game."
Burmistrov singled himself out for a poor performance in the faceoff circle on Sunday, going 4-9.
"I think everybody has to play their A game, including myself," he said. "I can’t win the faceoff. My game tonight was struggling in the faceoffs. My linemates never started with the puck. It’s tough when the little details, you’re not doing them."
The Jets start their road trip Tuesday in Buffalo.