NEW YORK -- Somewhere in their travels to the four corners of the globe during the NHL’s all-star break, maybe the Winnipeg Jets will find a duty-free goals store or possibly a website that deals in softer hands or foolproof offensive finish.
Those items were conspicuous by their absence this week when the Jets made a brief, two-game pit stop in the east. One goal for two nights added up to a pair of losses, the latest a 3-0 blanking from the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
It was Winnipeg’s third loss in a row, and third in three tries this season against the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers. It duplicated the result here on Nov. 6.
It was made all the worse by being the eighth straight time since the start of the season the Jets have failed on the second night of back-to-back games.
"We battled, we were physical, and we tried to generate things," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "Obviously we weren’t able to execute any goals and that certainly creates a problem."
This week’s setbacks leading to a five-day break were the latest in a trend of low offensive and poor road results that have basically undone much of the good work the team did at home in December.
The Jets, after a lousy start, reached the .500 mark on Dec. 3 and surged to five games over that mark by Dec. 31.
Now, at 22-22-6, they are teetering. Certainly, they are just five points out of the Southeast Division lead shared by Washington and Florida, and five away from a playoff spot, but they are also just five points from the 15th and bottom rung in the Eastern Conference.
Tuesday’s game was one of the heaviest of the season, physical both ways with crunching contact and very few instances of letting up on an opponent.
So the Jets’ compete level was certainly not lacking against the best team in the East, but that was worth nothing to frustrated right-winger Blake Wheeler, who has cooled off like many of his teammates, having only one assist in his last six games.
"This is a results business and trying doesn’t mean anything," Wheeler said. "We can talk about trying all we want but it doesn’t do anything. At a certain point in time, we’ve got to learn how to translate trying into winning.
"It just seems like when you go through stretches like this, it doesn’t matter what you do. You just can’t put it in the net. That’s just the way hockey goes sometimes. Most of the time, you might get one or two guys having that problem, but right now, we’ve got a good majority having that problem."
Added Jets winger Tanner Glass, among the many who were frustrated by Henrik Lundqvist’s shutout goaltending on Tuesday: "We’re grinding and grinding and they’re not easy chances to come by and they’re manufactured out of hits and forechecks. It does become extremely frustrating when they don’t go in."
On Tuesday, the Jets tried to bring down the conference leaders without injured impact players Dustin Byfuglien on defence and Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov and Tim Stapleton at forward.
Byfuglien and Kane, in particular, have performed at a high level this season and their absences are not minor.
"We don’t know those things," Noel said, when asked what the injury update might be when the schedule resumes next week. "It’s hard for me to say what’s going to happen. Are these guys going to be back right away? It’s hard to say. Byfuglien hasn’t skated with us yet and obviously, in the next five days, he’s not going to get an opportunity. We’ll see where they’re at.
"Don’t lose hope. We will have hope. There’s no doubt about that. We’ll be back on track here with our injuries and we’ll get things going. We’ll try to mend ourselves and go from there."