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Jets hit pause button

High-speed charge toward playoffs slows to standstill

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 Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec sprawls in the net after the puck took a strange bounce off Matt Halischuk (15) and crossed the line. Ottawa's Milan Michalek got credit for the goal.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec sprawls in the net after the puck took a strange bounce off Matt Halischuk (15) and crossed the line. Ottawa's Milan Michalek got credit for the goal. Photo Store

It's a matter of record what Paul Maurice has said he's here to do.

One, make the playoffs. And two, "Set in place the foundation of a game that we will play," the new coach said.

The early returns were oh, so encouraging for the Winnipeg Jets, rushing from 10 points away from a playoff spot when Maurice came on board to right on the line last weekend.

Cracks, though, are appearing in the plan after Saturday's 5-3 home-ice loss to the Ottawa Senators that gave the Jets three straight defeats on their own pond.

"On the nights you win, you feel you're close and that you're moving to the playoff position and on the nights you don't, you need to make sure you come back to rink with the (thought) 'How far off where we're (trying) to get to are we?'"

The Jets were off in many ways on Saturday, especially in the first 30 minutes of the game when things were happening very fast, just like Ottawa goals.

After 29 minutes 36 seconds of action, starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec had allowed five goals (a few of them pretty weird) on 20 shots and the Jets were down 5-2.

And that was game over, no matter how hard the home team tried to push the issue to the finish, leaving them stuck on 67 points and spinning tires in the Western Conference playoff race.

"I think we were just maybe trying to force a bit too much," said Jets defenceman Zach Bogosian. "We're a skilled team but we have to make sure we stick to the basics.

"I thought we tried to force a few too many plays off the start."

No argument from the coach there.

"Most of the what we've struggled with coming out of the break is what we're doing with the puck," Maurice said. "And it's not all strange things that are happening. It's execution."

'The' Goal, Part II

The Jets love to show off the video of a first-season highlight, their flying wing, five-on-one goal.

They won't love to show Saturday's third Ottawa goal by Eric Gryba but it was an equally odd visual.

Jets defenceman Mark Stuart dove to break up a two-on-one pass to Ottawa's Jason Spezza. And did. And bowled Pavelec into the corner as well. Then Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba slid to try to block Spezza's follow-up centring pass. And Jets forward Evander Kane dove a fraction of a second too late to stop Gryba and wound up slammed against the end boards.

"We've got three guys playing Zamboni and one guy late on the backcheck and it's in your net," Maurice said. "I'd like to see a little more calm sometimes and at the same time, more lather at times, more intensity."

 

The goalie, part 162 (or should this be CLXII)

Pavelec, in his 162nd game for the Jets, was hooked after the five goals on 20 shots in half a game.

"He's doing everything to keep us in every game and give us a chance to win," said teammate Dustin Byfuglien, in defence of his goalie. "There's going to be nights that go that way, the way it went (today). We can get mad at ourselves but we're a team and we have to find a way.

"It's not every night you're going to get your way and get your bounces. We have to stick to our game plan and just move on."

Maurice had no blame for his goalie after the game.

"I didn't take him out to do anything other than hopefully calm the bench down... and he had seen enough," the coach said. "There were more and more inexplicable parts -- it goes off two of our guys on the first one, one of our guys on the second one and we take out our goalie on the third one."

 

The shots; two parts

At Pavelec's exit, the Jets were down three goals and holding a 21-20 edge on the shot clock.

They finished by firing lots of ammo, ending with 49 shots to Ottawa's 32.

"It's going to be worth something tomorrow because it's the game we're trying to get to," Maurice said. "There's certainly no quit. They were more lathered, more intense as the game went on."

Said Stuart: "I thought we had our chances. Once we started throwing pucks on net we got chances. You've got to give (Craig) Anderson credit. He played well."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 9, 2014 B3

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