Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sad song in Music City

Loss against tough Preds dims playoff dream

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Winnipeg Jets' post-season dream -- which briefly spiked upward Friday in Washington -- has flatlined again and has been wheeled back into the intensive care unit.

The Jets were thumped 3-1 by the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena in Music City, USA Saturday night, running face-first into a defensive buzz that features the likes of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Hal Gill & Co.

And the timing couldn't be worse for the Jets as they lost on another night when they got no favours from their rivals, what with the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators both picking up critical Ws.

Winnipeg, now 35-32-8 after losing three of its last four, is six points back of the eighth-place Sabres, with a game in hand but just seven left in the regular season.

"We gotta win, that's all you can do," said Tim Stapleton, the lone Jet goal scorer. "I don't know what kind of record we've got to go (in the final seven games), but I'm pretty sure it's probably close to undefeated.

"I just don't think we did the necessary things. We kinda showed that in the third when we had some scoring chances. I don't know if we were tired... I don't think there's really any excuses. We didn't get the win and all we can really do is focus on Monday (against Ottawa) now."

Officially, the stat sheet showed the Jets fired 25 shots at Predators netminder Pekka Rinne -- named the first star -- but Winnipeg went long stretches without any decent opportunities.

Even on their lone power-play chance, the Jets managed only two shots as Nashville's massive D corps kept the area in front of Rinne clean.

The Jets, meanwhile, needed another stellar effort from Ondrej Pavelec just to keep this interesting at the end. The Preds got goals from Matt Halischuk and Gabriel Bourque before Weber scored into an empty net.

"We got shots, but very few quality shots, very few scoring chances," said Jet coach Claude Noel. "There was very little penetration inside the (faceoff) dots and very few second and third opportunities.

"They did a good job of really keeping us to the outside. It was a tough night to get on the inside of anything and when we got pucks to the inside we didn't have enough traffic or people at the net. But that combination doesn't get you good results. We were able to get the one, but it was tough. They defended very well, there was very little space out there."

Those Jet fans who are squeamish might want to close their eyes here as we open up some old wounds:

  • Winnipeg is now 12-21-4 on the road;
  • The Jets are now 1-11 in the second game of back-to-backs;
  • And, finally, Saturday's offensive production represented the 22nd time this season the team had been held to a goal or less, albeit the first since a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Valentine's Day.

"You score one goal it's tough to win," said Pavelec. "That's a tough team to play against. They have big defencemen and we always have to have the traffic in front and I don't think we did the job and found the net. But you have to give them the credit, they have big defencemen and they can clean the crease and their goalie saw the puck really well.

"I don't know if we deserved to win or not, but we lost and it is what it is. Monday is another game we have to win and hopefully some teams lose some points. We're still there. We're going to battle until the end of the season and we'll see what happens.

"It's pretty clear that we need the help from other teams. It's not in our destiny right now. It seems like everybody else is winning right now. It's a tough stretch, but we still hope we're going to make it and we'll see what happens."

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 25, 2012 B3

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