The Winnipeg Jets played exactly the kind of heavy, stifling game Tuesday night at the MTS Centre it takes to win in the gritty Central Division.
It ain’t pretty. It’s downright boring to watch at times. But it is winning hockey in the new neighbourhood the Jets find themselves in this season and of a type you would think Winnipeg is going to have to play a lot more of this season if they’re going to factor come playoff time.
Still, the Jets lost.
A St. Louis Blues power-play goal late in the third period on a seeing-eye shot from the point by defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk earned St. Louis a 2-1 victory and spoiled what was otherwise a hard-fought effort by the Jets in their first game back after a six-game road trip.
"It’s disappointing. It was a game that was good enough for us to win," said Jets head coach Claude Noel. "We were there, our power play came through — it was actually quite good tonight. We moved the puck around a little bit, we had some things going, we scored a goal that got us in the game... "Everything was going good — and then three-and-a-half minutes to go."
With the loss, the Jets are now a woeful 3-10-2 against Central Division foes.
The one that got away
The Blues opened the scoring in the second period on a bit of a fluky goal by forward Alex Steen, who notched his 21st of the season in memorable fashion by firing from behind the goal-line and banking the puck in off the back of Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec at 4:44.
The goal came on just the fourth shot of the game by the Blues and could have been deflating for a Winnipeg team that had put together a strong defensive effort to that point.
But the Jets kept grinding and were rewarded three minutes into the third period when Bryan Little beat Blues netminder Brian Elliott from the slot for the equalizer on what was Winnipeg’s first power-play goal in eight games.
But it was St. Louis who got the best bounce of the night when — with under four minutes to play and Dustin Byfuglien off for hooking — Shattenkirk fired a knuckle-puck from the point that went off Little in front and beat Pavelec for the game-winner.
"I was trying to get in the way but it hit my stick and might have hit something else," explained Little. "It was disappointing, just because we worked to get back into the game and tied it up and they get one that bounces off a couple of things and goes in right at the end of the game. To lose that way is definitely frustrating."
Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba said there was no questioning the fact his team went toe-to-toe with one of the toughest teams in a very tough Central Division.
"They are a big, physical team and you can’t get pushed around out there," Trouba said. "And I don’t think we did at all. I think we played right with them, I think we played a pretty good game. We just didn’t get the outcome we wanted."
With the loss to the Blues, the Jets are now 7-7-3 this season at home and 7-7-1 on the road for an overall record 14-14-4.
There was consolation to be had Tuesday night in his club’s effort, but this loss still sounded like it was going to sting for awhile for Noel.
"We played a pretty good game," said Noel, "other than the fact we didn’t finish the game the right way."
The Jets still have two more games against Central Division opponents to go this week before a three-game homestand wraps up. The Colorado Avalanche are up Thursday night, followed by a matinee game on Saturday versus the Dallas Stars.