VANCOUVER — They were close and might have deserved something on Thursday night but the only move the Winnipeg Jets made was down in the standings.
Losing 3-2 on a late goal by Sami Pahlsson of the Vancouver Canucks, the Jets dropped to ninth spot in the Eastern Conference after the Washington Capitals pulled a late comeback and won in overtime.
Washington and the Jets are at 72 points, but the Caps have played one fewer game.
Pahlsson scored with a wicked screen shot with just 5:43 left in regulation time, capping a rally that saw Vancouver overcome a 2-1 Jets lead early in the third.
"I didn’t see it at all," Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec said on Pahlsson’s winning shot under the cross-bar. "No way. It was over my shoulder.
"We did a turnover in their zone and then they come up to our zone and got the middle. It was too late to do something about it.
"We could have won the game but too many mistakes."
Once Blake Wheeler had established the Jets’ 2-1 lead early in the third, the Canucks really bumped the pace to win their first game in three outings before 18,890 fans at Rogers Arena, more than just a few of them cheering for the Jets.
"We didn’t really skate most of the game," Wheeler said. "Those guys are good, a good team but if we skate and play a certain way, they’re no better than us.
"You’ve go to give them credit because they really turned things up in the third after we scored the second goal but it was a byproduct of us, not pushing the force like we really can.
"We were back, not really an odd-man opportunity and the guy made a hell of a shot, right under the bar. It wasn’t much of a breakdown. It was too good of a spot we let him get a shot off from."
The Jets fell to 32-28-8, with the bad news that they’re 11-18-4 on the road. They have just 14 games to play, the next tonight in for a game against the Flames.
Early in the third, following an Pavelec save on a David Booth rush for Vancouver, the Jets turned it the other way and Wheeler picked the short side form a sharp angle to put the Jets ahead for the first time in the game.
Wheeler was able to dance around a diving attempt at a check by Canucks defenceman Alex Edler and he caught Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider leaning away from the close post, anticpating a pass.
The lead held for just less than three minutes as the Canucks upped the tempo.
Vancouver squared the game when Edler’s weak, wobbly shot from the point bounced and found the back of the net behind Pavelec.
Thursday’s game was a game with a definite buzz and yet another Jets road contest with a considerable portion of the crowd pulling for the visitors.
Games between Canadian teams generally are this way, and the "Go Jets Go" chants throughout the night were evidence of the support.
Vancouver is now 42-18-8 and one back of St. Louis for the NHL’s overall lead.
VANCOUVER — On a night of so many intertwined stories between the Vancouver Canucks and the Winnipeg Jets — the people, the players, the former affiliation — the NHL game may come down to who has more success reversing trends.
The Jets, at 72 points with 15 games left, are one of the league's poorest road teams at 11-17-4. They can’t afford to be as they try to hang on to their current eighth-place standing in the Eastern Conference.
The Canucks, at 90, are just one point off the overall NHL lead, but they’ve lost four of their last five and the last two at home, and looked sluggish doing it.
Though his team has won two of its last three away from the MTS Centre, Jets winger Tanner Glass — the former Canuck — thinks the team’s recent homestand of 5-1-2 can push the Jets in the right direction starting tonight (9 p.m. CT, TSN Jets, TSN 1290).
"It’s tough to put your finger on, really," Glass said about the road record. "We haven’t been as sharp as we’ve been at home, whether it’s the boost you get from the crowd or the home cooking or how nice our wives are to us.
"I think we’ve taken a good step with this last homestand and we’re looking forward to getting on the road again."
Jets coach Claude Noel said this morning that he knows his team has got its hands full tonight, the first of back-to-back road games that continues to Calgary on Friday.
"They’ve faced some teams battling for their playoff lives," Noel said. "They’re doing it again tonight. They’ve lost their last couple of home games but we all know it’s a very good team. They can play with a lot of skill and hurt you in a lot of ways."
But Noel said he has seen some of the right signs with his team, which won an important Monday home game, 3-1 over Buffalo.
"I’m expecting us to carry the same game we’ve had," Noel said. "I’m not hoping, I’m expecting."
Tonight the Jets will face a goalie familiar to their fans. Cory Schneider was a standout netminder when he played for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose — leading that team to a Calder Cup final in 2009 — and he’s no slouch as an NHL goalie, either, with 14-6-1 record this season.
"We know he’s a tough goalie," said Jets winger Kyle Wellwood, also a former Canuck. "This should be a fun game and we look forward to playing them."
Schneider said there’s certainly an energy around Rogers Arena for the last couple of days with the Jets on the schedule.
"It’s good to see some old faces and some people who helped me get to where I am," said the former Moose all-star.
And he knows the Canucks, who are certain to be in the playoffs, will be facing yet another desperate team tonight. Buffalo and Dallas have won games here in the last week.
"We’ve seen it the last five, six games, teams working hard for playoff spots," Schneider said. "We should be able to match that, no problem. We’re a team that knows how to play our A game, ratchet up the intensity when we have to."