Struggling Jets undone by inept special-teams play

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DALLAS — You can dissect a defeat like this one a million ways, but in the end, the biggest culprit in a 6-3 Winnipeg loss to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center Thursday night was the failure of the Jets’ specialty units.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/11/2015 (2571 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

DALLAS — You can dissect a defeat like this one a million ways, but in the end, the biggest culprit in a 6-3 Winnipeg loss to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center Thursday night was the failure of the Jets’ specialty units.

On a night the Jets gave up two power-play goals — including the game-winner — they also went 0-for-4 on their own power play. Case closed. Any questions?

The maddening part for Jets fans was it was all so predictable.

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez Dallas Stars' Kari Lehtonen (32), of Finland, takes a puck to the mask as he defends against a shot from Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) in the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, in Dallas. Stars' Jason Demers (4) helps defend on the play.

The Stars were scoring on 28.6 per cent of their power plays heading into Thursday’s game — second best in the NHL — so it didn’t take a genius to know the most effective way to shut down the Dallas power play was to simply not give them any.

But a hooking call on Jets blue-liner Toby Enstrom barely two minutes into the game put the kibosh on that idea and resulted in quick 1-0 Dallas lead. And then, in a perfect example of some guys never learn, the Jets bookended the debacle with a holding penalty on defenceman Dustin Byfuglien late in the third period that led to the game-winning goal for the Stars.

In the end, Dallas finished 2-for-4 on the power play, which means their power-play percentage got even better, thanks to the Jets.

And yet, the Jets were not without their chances in this one and could have at least sent the game to overtime — and quite possibly even won it — had they simply gotten productiojn out of their own power play.

Moments after Jets defenceman Tyler Myers scored midway through the third period to tie the game 3-3, the Jets were gift-wrapped a four-minute man advantage when Stars forward Tyler Seguin clipped Jets centre Bryan Little with a high stick.

It was the perfect opportunity for redemption for a Jets power play that was just 1-for-18 heading into that moment. But four minutes later, the Jets had mustered the grand total of three shots in four minutes and the game was still tied — and now Byfuglien was sitting in the box, having been called for holding just as Seguin’s double-minor was set to expire.

Put it all together and a Jets power play that at one point in October was the fifth best in the NHL is now 1-for 20 through this most recent stretch, with their lone power-play marker coming in garbage time in Minnesota Tuesday night when Blake Wheeler scored in the third period with his team trailing 5-1.

“The difference was they were able to capitalize on the power play at the end,” observed Myers. “It’s a tough one. We’re going to need to learn from it.”

If that sounds familiar, it should — it’s exactly what the Jets have been saying for over a week now as the losses have continued to mount.

So why’s it going to be different this time? Wheeler says it’s gut-check time.

“We just need to keep fighting together. The biggest key is to just not get down and let the adversity get the best of us. It’s our first tough test this year and we’re going to have to get through it together…

“Tied with the best team in the league in the third period is not a horrible thing. But there’s no moral victories.”

But such is the low bar the Jets have set through this recent stretch that head coach Paul Maurice was extolling just such silver linings in defeat.

“It was better than our last effort,” said Maurice, referencing a 5-3 loss in Minnesota Tuesday night, “but not good enough to win the game.

“We keep working… We’re in a tough stretch now.”

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Paul Wiecek

Paul Wiecek
Reporter (retired)

Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.

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