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Maurice's bloody souvenir symbolic of his team's late swoon

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If the Winnipeg Jets' late-season nosedive -- from a playoff position on March 1 to an official elimination from the playoff picture 33 days later -- could be represented by one image, it might have been presented late Thursday night.

There was coach Paul Maurice addressing the media following a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins that snuffed out the Jets' last playoff breath sporting a nasty gash and welt on his forehead after taking an errant puck to the melon in the first period.

And it could be said this crew, which has served up some decent work in the last month but has very little to show for it, has been collectively banging its head for awhile now.

"We've got a week to do the autopsy. Let's do it later," began Maurice when asked about officially being knocked out of the playoff picture.

"We missed the net 18 times. That's more shots than we put on goal and that, to me, was the difference from our offensive point of view: We didn't get enough pucks to the net, on the net to create some of the chaos that we needed to create.

"It was a tight game and it felt tight."

Asked later how his head was feeling, Maurice added: "Yeah, it feels good. Real good."

The Jets are now 15-11-5 under Maurice, but just 4-8-4 in their last 16. The players speak about progress -- Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma said earlier in the day there is a "significant difference" in how the Jets are playing now compared to earlier in the year -- but the results haven't been tangible in the last stretch.

The end result? This franchise has now failed to qualify for the playoffs for the seventh straight season.

"This has kind of been the story here for the last month," said defenceman Adam Pardy. "It's not like we're playing bad. We're doing a lot of good things, we're working our asses off, but we're just not getting results.

"It's frustrating. We're battling a lot of injuries and it's been a tough road for us. We've just got to keep moving ahead and keep trying to create an identity as a team."

How much that really matters at this point -- with just four games remaining in the year -- and how much it might carry into next season is debatable. And it won't really be measurable until next fall, at the earliest.

After the game, Evander Kane was asked if he saw a difference with this crew in comparison to past seasons because of their compete level and the team's direction. And there was no sugar-coating in his answer.

"It's tough to see a difference when you're in the same situation year after year," said Kane. "But I do, in some ways. But time will tell."

SECOND JUST AS SWEET

Jets defenceman Zach Redmond scored his first goal of the season -- and second of his career -- against the Pens. It was his first marker since last year's horrific injury in which a skate blade sliced open his leg and threatened his career.

"They're all special at this point," said Redmond.

"I'm still young in my career so scoring a goal at any point... after the injury you can say that's a little bit more special, sure. But second goal in the NHL is going to be cool either way."

 

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2014 C2

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