DENVER — It can be a glorious and wonderful game. And then there are nights like Monday when the Winnipeg Jets served up one of their most-complete efforts of the season and were delivered a cruel blow by the game’s gods.
The Jets were dropped 3-2 in overtime by the Colorado Avalanche, one of the Western Conference powers, and as a result are now winless in their last four games (0-2-2).
The OT loss leaves Winnipeg with a 30-28-8 record, while the Avs improve to 42-18-5. Although the single point may yet turn out to be an important one when the numbers are added up at the end of the season, the sweat equity served up by the Jets in Colorado certainly made them worthy of a critical second point.
More important is this: With 16 games left in the regular season the Jets still have a ton of ground to close to be playing meaningful games next month.
WHAT IT MEANS
Captain Obvious: there’s never a good time for an NHL team to go on a four-game winless streak, but it really stinks when a squad is in a full-out sprint for a playoff spot. Both Phoenix and Nashville won their games Monday night, pushing the Coyotes, now with 71 points, three points ahead of the Jets while the Predators inched closer with 64 points.
Meanwhile, the Dallas-Columbus game was postponed in the first period Monday after Stars forward Rich Peverley collapsed on the team’s bench and had to be attended to by doctors before being taken to the hospital, where he is listed in stable condition.
That leaves the Jets four points back of the Stars, who hold down the final Western Conference wild-card spot.
THE LINE-JUGGLING EXPERIMENT
Trying anything to get some offensive pop — and a return to better defensive-zone structure — Jets coach Paul Maurice juggled his lines before the game. He moved Michael Frolik from centre back to the right wing on a line with Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd, had Olli Jokinen between Devin Setoguchi and Evander Kane, moved Jim Slater to the middle of Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler and had John Albert centring Anthony Peluso and Eric Tangradi.
The Slater line consistently generated the best offensive pressure all night with Byfuglien scoring twice — once on the power play — in a massive power-forward-type effort from the Jets’ big man. And Slater, a defensive specialist his whole career, was solid in the offensive zone, finishing with five shots — including a missed attempt on a penalty shot.
The Little-Ladd-Frolik trio was also solid as was the Jokinen line — Kane, in particular — giving the Jets push from their top three units.
The fourth line were simply passengers, especially after Albert exited the game in the second period with an upper-body injury. Combined, the Albert line played a grand total of five minutes and 41 seconds.
The Jets made a constant procession to the penalty box and the only thing missing from the parade were marching bands, clown cars and floats. Winnipeg was short-handed six times, but shut the Avs down on all six occasions while limiting them to just six shots on goal.
The Jets have now given up just two power-play goals on the road in 13 games since the calendar turned to 2014 and have killed off 39 straight minors.
EXTRA FUN TIME
The Jets dominated the first chunk of the OT, but a loose puck in front of Al Montoya — who was solid — was knocked right to Matt Duchene by Jerts defenceman Toby Enstrom. Duchene was able to score the winner, which brought the Avs off the bench in celebration and sent the visitors to the dressing room cursing.