RALEIGH, N.C. — Someday, the Winnipeg Jets might be in a position to do the bare minimum and win, something like the Carolina Hurricanes did to them on Monday.
But Monday was not that day for the Jets, and it’s not likely to be today, either, when the Jets head into what’s been for them a dreaded scenario, games on back-to-back days.
Winnipeg, having lost 2-1 to the lowly Canes and their 16 shots on goal at RBC Center, heads for New York’s Madison Square Garden where the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers are waiting for them Tuesday (6 p.m. CT, TSN Jets, TSN 1290).
Monday’s first period was a near repeat of Saturday’s at home against the Florida Panthers. The Jets trailed 2-0, only this time, it wasn’t free pizzas, it was puck luck that had them behind.
Jeff Skinner scored early when his two-on-one pass — not a very good decision given the coverage — was expertly broken up by veteran Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey. Only the puck went right back to Skinner, who had the open net for his 14th of the season
In the ninth minute, Tim Brent came from the corner and sent the puck towards the front of the net.
Jets goalie Chris Mason, who had beaten Carolina three times already this season, cheated off his post and the puck nicked his stick and went in.
This climb back was too much to make.
Though the Jets surged much like they did when they got an overtime point at home Saturday, this time they were against Canes goalie Cam Ward, who’s been at his aggressive best in now allowing two or fewer goals in nine straight starts.
The Jets had enough playmaking skill to get to Ward’s back-side for just one goal, that Kyle Wellwood’s second-period marker that made this one tight.
"The one thing I though Ward was really good at was that he was really aggressive," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "He came out. We almost needed to get pucks on the other side of him by redirecting pucks with somebody in front and somebody off to the side but that’s an easier thing said than done.
"He made some big saves. He was a little bit fortunate on some but that’s what you get. You have to find a way to push a goalie out of the game and we did everything but score."
Carolina, after seven shots in the first, ended the game with just 16.
And though the home team was obviously trying to be more detailed and more defence-conscious, the Jets ran the game, outshot the Canes 14-2 in the final period and had quality chances all throughout the frame.
Blake Wheeler went in early. Tanner Glass retouched Hainsey’s point shot off the post. Alex Burmistrov had a glorious shorthanded chance. Skinner lifted Mark Stuart’s stick at the last possible second near the Carolina net, preventing a goal. Chris Thorburn had a clear path to Ward with the puck.
And the real stinger was Wellwood’s breakaway with two minutes to play. He shot it too high.
"I was hoping he’d start leaning down and thought I’d have a shot," Wellwood said. "I somehow got so much under it that it went almost over the glass. That’s disappointing."
That’s also what the first period was, again, for the Jets.
"That’s the way the NHL is," he said. "It’s very difficult to come back in the third period. We tried our best but the start really was the difference.
"A 2-0 lead on the road. The odds are stacked against you right away. We fought back and outshot them by a considerable margin but we weren’t able to find the back of the net."
Nobody had to explain the turning point of Monday’s game to Mason.
"It’s a terrible goal," he said of Brent’s winner. "The guy was passing out front and I left before and it hit my stick and went in. It’s a bad, terrible goal and it ended up being the game-winner.
"I thought we played good in the third period and parts of the second but it sucks when that’s the deciding goal."
Noel, however, defended his veteran goalie.
"Our goalies have been really good for us so I’m not going to sit and blame the goaltending for a situation like that," the coach said. "You’ll get (bad goals) some games and that’s the way it goes. You just hope your team can help them out. I thought our team did what they could to help our goalie out."