EDMONTON — It’s official and it comes straight from a North Pole source: jolly ol’ St. Nick has seen enough and moved the Winnipeg Jets to the naughty list.
And this time he scratched their name in atop the chart with permanent marker, not pencil.
The Jets dropped a 6-2 decision to the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place Monday night in their final pre-Christmas contest, falling to the second-worst team in the National Hockey League, a squad which has dropped six straight and has been shut out in three of the last five.
Winnipeg, which has just two wins in its last eight games, falls to 16-18-5. And worth noting here: In the last month the Jets have dropped games to the NHL’s weaker sisters — Buffalo, Florida and now Edmonton.
The Jets knew the Oilers would be coming, what with Dallas Eakins kicking the hornet’s nest earlier in the day by calling the fan who tossed his jersey on the ice at the end of Saturday’s six-zip loss to St. Louis "a quitter." That the Oilers went into damage control after that — Eakins clarifying his statement via Twitter, GM Craig MacTavish and president Patrick LaForge reaching out to the fan later in the day — was inconsequential to the Jets.
But their response, frankly, was iffy.
Of course, it didn’t help that the Jets took two minor penalties in the first eight minutes with the Oilers capitalizing on the second opportunity as Jordan Eberle buried home a pass from Ales Hemsky. The Jets would get the equalizer on a softie from Mark Stuart right through Ilya Bryzgalov, but another defensive lapse saw Sam Gagner put the home side ahead 2-1 after 20 minutes.
And how the Jets managed to survive the early onslaught brings us to our second discussion point...
THE PAV DECISION
Playing their second game in as many nights — and third in four days — the matchup with the Oilers had an Al Montoya start written all over it. But Claude Noel’s decision to start Ondrej Pavelec had Twitterverse and chat rooms buzzing, especially with these stats to munch on: In the second half of back-to-back contests Pavelec’s career record was 3-15 with a 4.11 goals against average and .870 save percentage.
And all of those numbers plummeted further after Monday night.
But Pavelec was hardly the culprit against the Oilers. The Jets were outshot 14-7 in the first, gained their legs a bit in the second, but were mere shadows of the club that served up a defensively sound effort in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Vancouver.
They were guilty of some horrible defensive-zone coverage and countless turnovers, leaving Pavelec to either make some highlight-of-the-night candidate saves or fish the puck out of the net after another tic-tac-toe Oilers’ marker.
A GONG SHOW FINAL 20
The Jets came completely unglued in the third as the Oilers scored three times — the first by Jeff Petry 11 seconds after a Winnipeg power play ended to really seal the deal — with later markers by Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov that then brought out the ugly in the game.
The final moments saw Jets Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Zach Bogosian booed off the ice after the Winnipeg captain and Yakupov got into it with their sticks following the Oilers’ sixth goal and a minor skirmish.
Good question. The Jets will be off the ice for three days before returning on the 27th to face the Minnesota Wild at home. And with the playoff line becoming fainter by the night, the Jets need to go on a run — a big-time run — to get themselves back in the playoff discussion.
But here’s why everyone in Jetland has their doubts: This squad hasn’t won back-to-back games since road wins in New Jersey and Long Island Nov. 25 and 27. Since, they are 3-7-1. And that puts them closer to dreaming of a high draft pick than meaningful hockey in late April and May.