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Sabres pounce on Jets

Bad penalties pave way for Buffalo's OT victory

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BUFFALO, NY -- Ondrej Pavelec looked like a man who wanted to scream. Claude Noel might very well have wanted to fire off a throaty roar of frustration, as well.

And Mark Stuart, given the opportunity, likely could have put his fist through a wall.

Yes, under the circumstances -- a long road trip comes to a conclusion with a winning record and a point is picked up against a solid NHL contender in the Buffalo Sabres -- you'd think the Winnipeg Jets would have been content to exit the United States with a 3-2-2 record.

But Tuesday night's 6-5 OT loss to the Sabres felt more like an opportunity lost as the Jets blew four leads, gave up four power-play goals and essentially gift-wrapped -- nice bow on top, too -- a victory for the home side.

So, just how frustrating was that, Mr. Stuart?

"Extremely. It's pretty obvious what happened out there... too many penalties. We've got to be more disciplined.

"We didn't get a point, we lost a point. I would put it that way."

Now 5-7-3 on the season, the Jets took four penalties in each period and then two more in overtime -- a Blake Wheeler hooking infraction followed immediately by a 10-minute misconduct handed to Dustin Byfuglien -- and the Sabres made them pay dearly. The game-winning goal came with the extra attacker as Thomas Vanek tipped home a blast by Jason Pominville with 25 seconds remaining and the game-tying marker also came with Stuart and Zach Bogosian in the box.

Amazingly, the Jets were down two men three times in the game and Pavelec, who was under siege while facing 45 shots, might very well have been the best Jet despite surrendering six goals.

"We won the point in the jackpot tonight," said Pavelec, sarcastically. "I think we are smart enough to realize that if you do stupid penalties in their zone six times it's going to hurt you, especially against Buffalo. They've got good guys and that's exactly what happened tonight. We just gave it to them. Same story again.

"Everybody's working hard, but like I said, stupid plays cost us the game."

The Jets had five power-play opportunities of their own, scoring once on a goal by Bryan Little. But Noel lamented this simple fact: it's hard to get any kind of flow with the seat in the Jets penalty box kept toasty warm all night.

"We needed to keep the game five on five, that was probably one of the biggest keys -- you can't give the other team 12 power plays and think that you're going to succeed," said Noel. "That's the disappointing part. We would have liked to have gotten two points here, it was within our grasp.

"We end up shooting ourselves in the foot. We spent half the time in the box and you end up with a short bench... that doesn't help you. That was a game we could have won and we were in position to win it. Having said that... 3-2-2 (on the trip), we did some good things and got some good things back in our game."

Eventually the frustration may subside and the Jets will be doing the silver-lining thing leading up to Thursday's game against Florida. But for now, the mood in the Jets' dressing room was more sombre than celebratory.

"We've got to take the positives from the trip," said Zach Bogosian. "Pav has given us a chance to win every game. We've got to make sure we build off this. We battled hard, we got into overtime a couple of times but we've got to make sure we move forward and keep the confidence going.

"There's a couple (of games) we'd like to have back. But all in all it was a pretty good trip."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Jets Report C3

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 9, 2011 C1

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