It would seem the magic pixie dust Paul Maurice has sprinkled generously on the Winnipeg Jets does have some limitations.
The Jets fell 4-3 to the Nashville Predators Tuesday night at the MTS Centre and, along the way, clanged a couple off posts, missed some glorious opportunities and had some of the good fortune they’ve enjoyed since the new boss slipped behind the bench go the other way.
The result: the Jets are back to .500 at 25-25-5 — and 6-2 under Maurice — after a sloppy but hard-fought contest to a Central Division rival. The loss vaulted the Predators, now 24-23-8, one point ahead of the Jets into 11th spot in the Western Conference.
"I think we had a good understanding of how (the game) was going to look and it looked exactly how we thought it would at the start and right through," said Maurice. "It’s such a hard, grinding game. It was a battle level right through.
"Listen, that group... you could see it in their faces coming to the bench: they gave everything they absolutely had. There was nothing easy. That game, we spent a lot here, as they should have, in the last week and they gave absolutely everything they had."
SOME OF THE NEW, SOME OF THE OLD
The Jets followed some of the same formula that has brought them so much success of late, out-hitting the Preds 45-17 as Maurice shortened the bench to squeeze maximum performances out of his top three lines and top two defence pairings.
But the Jets were also guilty of some breakdowns defensively — credited with 18 turnovers — and didn’t get the game-changing goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec and Al Montoya that had been the trademark of the recent run.
And, hey, lets also credit the Predators, who, coming off a shootout loss to Calgary and a 5-1 thrashing in Edmonton, served up the kind of opportunistic road gem that is their blueprint.
"They just got spanked 5-1 against Edmonton and coming in you just felt it was going to be a really tough game," said Blake Wheeler, who scored his 22nd goal, a career high. "I think we were in the box a little bit more than we wanted to be. They had a good push there in the second period and we responded and it would have been nice to start the third five on five. That said we’ve got to try to kill it off and go from there.
"From there, we were fighting an uphill battle and you were looking at four or five guys every time you went up the ice. And we still had opportunities, hit a post or two and had a couple really good looks in front of their net and sometimes that’s the way it goes."
KIDS ARE HOT TONIGHT
The Jets got a goal and an assist from Mark Scheifele and his two-point night gives him 31 (10 goals, 21 assists) on the season, moving him past Chris Kreider into third place in rookie scoring.
The Jets’ other freshman phenom, Jacob Trouba, picked up two assists, giving him seven points in his last seven games.
Predators rookie Seth Jones opened the scoring, wheeling around Toby Enstrom before beating Ondrej Pavelec with a wraparound.
But it was 14-year veteran Mike Fisher who played the hero, beating Pavelec 42 seconds into the third period for what was the game-winner. That goal came with Devin Setoguchi in the penalty box for slashing Shea Weber, right after the Preds’ D-man mugged him along the boards.
"That was a penalty we can’t take," said Maurice, "and that was addressed. Discipline, especially when you are playing five games in eight, is paramount."
Setoguchi, to his credit, had one of his best shifts later in the game after the penalty, throwing his body around in the offensive zone.
"Teammates want an opportunity to learn from a mistake," said Maurice. "And then you expect a response like that, an understanding of responsibility and the respect for his teammates to do everything he possibly can to do it back."
AND THE RESPONSE IS...?
The Jets have done this before, teased and then disappointed. They won four straight from Nov. 8-15 and then went winless in their next four and, after cranking out three consecutive W’s after Christmas, then dropped five in a row to cost Claude Noel his job.
"We’re not thinking about that at all," said Mark Stuart. "It’s a loss, we’ll review it and then we’ve got to move on. We need points. We’re not going to dwell on this one, that’s for sure."