Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

On-ice product not so hot

Jets look sloppy, ineffective, vow to get better

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It was a warm and fuzzy story that spoke of reclaiming something lost, had nationalistic undertones and provided a dandy boost to civic pride.

But the end of the opening chapter, frankly, could have used the deft touch of Disney's team of writers.

Sports has long taught us that the good guy isn't always guaranteed to get the girl, the hero doesn't always ride off into the sunset and the princess who smooches the frog in search of her prince sometimes is simply left staring back at the ugly amphibian.

The reborn Winnipeg Jets were sloppy, nervous and mistake-happy in a 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Sunday in front of 15,004 fanatics jammed into every nook and cranny of the MTS Centre in what was hardly a memorable National Hockey League debut, Part II.

And, no, it was hardly how so many had hoped the script would unfold.

"Tonight was pretty special as far as a historical point of view," said Jets winger Chris Thorburn. "It's just unfortunate we couldn't match the fans' enthusiasm on the ice. When it comes down to it, it's a business. We want to win hockey games. We want to make the playoffs. And it feels like we let them down. They've been waiting for this all summer and to come out and lose 5-1 is nothing to be proud of, from our point of view."

The Jets gift-wrapped the first two goals when a Johnny Oduya pass was gobbled up and buried by Mike Cammalleri 3:05 into the contest and with Oduya pick-pocketed by Tomas Plekanec for the second marker early in the second.

"We gave up some free pizzas in the middle of the ice," said Jets' head coach Claude Noel. "The first one was a free pizza that we gave up and that's exactly what good players do: turnovers result in goals. And good players get one chance and it's in the back of the net."

Winnipeg did cut the gap to 2-1 when Nik Antropov whacked home a rebound past Carey Price early in the third, but any momentum was sapped by an interference call on Dustin Byfuglien that led to a Yannick Weber power-play goal.

Price was steady in the Habs' net, kicking out 30 of 31 shots, while Ondrej Pavelec was also beaten by Max Pacioretty and Travis Moen. Plekanec also picked up two helpers to finish with three points.

Asked afterward what good he took from the game, Jets' captain Andrew Ladd said: "Not much, to be honest with you. The biggest thing is you've got to kinda get pissed off and expect more from each other. That's not the type of team we want to be. We've got to be better going forward. We've got to get going."

Amazingly, even after a dud of a debut, the Jets earned a standing ovation at the end.

"In Barrie (his OHL team) if that had happened fans would have been leaving half-way through the second period," said rookie Mark Scheifele. "To get a standing ovation after we lose shows we're going to have the fans behind us. We should have got them the win."

"I thought I was in Montreal or something because they were cheering for Montreal at the end," added Thorburn. "It just goes to show the type of fans we have here. They understand the game of hockey and they know when to chant and get our enthusiasm and motivation up. And it worked at times."

But it didn't work often enough. And the tale, this part of it at least, hardly has a storybook finish. Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 10, 2011 C4


Updated on Monday, October 10, 2011 at 8:22 AM CDT: Adds art.

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