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Going, going, all but gone

Playoffs slip further away Jets come up short

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There's little argument the Winnipeg Jets have been bursting at the seams over the last 20 or 30 games, trying to scrap their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But there's also little doubt those seams are about to give because the stitches and duct tape can't hold this willing but out-gunned outfit together much longer.

The Jets put up another determined fight Monday night at the MTS Centre, coming back three times to tie the game only to eventually give it away to the Ottawa Senators 6-4.

It's now four losses in the last five games and we're getting to the point where a miracle is going to be needed to see the post-season.

Winnipeg trails Washington and Buffalo, who share eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 84 points, by a full six and have just six games left themselves.

The next stressful step of this process comes tonight, when the Sabres and Capitals meet in Washington. Any way it falls tonight, the difference between the Jets and a playoff spot will be eight points -- Winnipeg will have a game in hand -- and next up here on Wednesday are the New York Rangers, who are first in the Eastern Conference.

Monday, the Jets just couldn't seem to get a lead, yet three times turned deficits into tie games, including 4-4 with less than three minutes to go.

Evander Kane's chest produced his first in six games by going to the net but the euphoria was short-lived as Daniel Alfredsson smacked one into the open side 24 seconds after that, with the Jets in full confusion mode.

"We chased the game," said Jets coach Claude Noel, in analytical mode, not anger mode, after his team fell to 35-33-8. "We were forever chasing the game. We kept coming back... and eventually, there are some moments you could have taken some steps."

At either 3-3 late in the second, or 4-4, Noel suggested, it might have been a good idea to buckle down.

"This is where you've got to buckle down and say, 'OK, we just need one here and we just need to settle down and play,' " he said. "But we didn't. Look at the plays that got made, but we battled all the way through to the Kane goal, and couldn't even close it off then. It's disappointing and it's disappointing for the players, too."

The higher-skill Senators, outshot 48-35, made the most of their openings.

"If you want to get in a horse race against them, this is how the game winds up," Noel said. "You have to be able to regroup from situations and stay with the way you're playing and I don't think we did that.

"You get caught up in the (the emotion of the building) but you tie it late like that, you should be able to at least get to the point where you get a point.

"But to turn around and give up a goal on the next shift with your best players...."

Winnipeg's 48 shots were the most this season. Whether that says something about how tough it is for opponents to play in the MTS Centre, the Senators' porous tendencies or the Jets offensive generation isn't clear.

What is clear is Ottawa now has 88 points, is easily seventh in the conference and is headed for the playoffs.

"Guys are trying their best out there to make plays, create offence, get the puck out of the zone," Kane said about his team's costly turnovers. "It happens to everybody.

"We battled all night. We had 48 shots, threw everything at the net. We had a lot of key chances, probably could have got eight or nine goals if we could have got those bounces. I thought we played pretty darn well and we lose."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2012 C1

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