VANCOUVER — If they knew they could officially call them growing pains — a term which implies there will be actual growth — then maybe the Winnipeg Jets could handle a mix of frustration and disappointment churning in their stomach.
But that’s not how it works in pro sports, and especially in the National Hockey League.
While the consensus was the Jets were deserving of a better fate in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena — they controlled the game for long stretches in the second and parts of the third — the bottom line remains the same:
They just aren’t quite good enough to be considered part of the playoff discussion.
"It’s been the same story for our team for a little bit," said Evander Kane, who notched the Jets’ lone goal. "We play well for portions of the game and we have that mindset that we’re going to pressure and stick to the game plan for extended periods even, but we’ve got to find a way to have that mentality and stay strong with that mentality throughout the course of the game and not be satisfied with where we’re at in the game.
"They scored a power-play goal and for us to respond with one of our own was big. After that, we needed to respond. We had some opportunities to score but I felt like we didn’t push the pace the way we needed to in order to win the game.
"We’ve played in a lot of one-goal games and unfortunately fell on the other side of a lot of those games. It’s something that we can’t be satisfied with. We’re a team that skates really well and we need to use that to our (advantage). We’re big, but do we play physical all the time? I don’t know. That’s something we need to use to our advantage as well."
The loss drops the Jets, who will play their third game in four nights Monday in Edmonton, to 16-17-5. It also comes on a night when they could have gained some ground on the Minnesota Wild, who fell 4-1 to the New York Rangers.
The Jets are now 9-8-5 in one-goal games and the frustration is starting to wear thin on a crew which hasn’t posted consecutive wins since Nov. 25-27 against the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders.
"We carried the play, but there’s a difference between carrying the play and finishing on your plays," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "It isn’t about scoring chances, it’s about goals and finishing. I thought we played a pretty good road game. We were into the game. We battled, we were taking things to them. We just couldn’t close out the game. That was the disappointing part."
The Canucks, now 9-1-1 in their last 11, got their first goal with one second left on a power play, with Brad Richardson tipping a shot past Ondrej Pavelec. And after Kane evened the score, the Jets dominated but couldn’t beat Eddie Lack, who came in out of the bullpen to relieve Roberto Luongo.
Former Manitoba Moose D-man Chris Tanev gobbled up a puck in the Jets’ zone and blasted it by Pavelec midway through the third — a goal that came completely against the flow. But again, that’s the difference between a team that is struggling to get to the playoff line and one that is now 22-11-6.
"There were something like three guys in front of me," said Pavelec of the winner. "I had a piece of it... it hit my shoulder and went into the net.
"Every loss is frustrating, especially because we’ve lost so many games in the third period. Those teams, you make a mistake, they score goals. It’s a tough building to play. They’re a really good team.
"We have to focus on what we’re doing and how we want to play. We have to go game by game and just focus on ourselves, because nobody else is going to help us."