Hawks too much to handle

Jets are solid, but come out on wrong end

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CHICAGO - There have likely been many nights this season head coach Paul Maurice stepped away from the Winnipeg Jets bench cursing his team and ready to bring the whip down.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/12/2015 (2551 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

CHICAGO – There have likely been many nights this season head coach Paul Maurice stepped away from the Winnipeg Jets bench cursing his team and ready to bring the whip down.

Then there are days such as Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, when the troops empty their physical and emotional tanks and yet have diddly-plus-squat to show for it.

“We played hard. I’m happy with our game,” said Maurice. “You don’t like the result, it’s a winning business, I understand that. No doubt about it. A loss is painful. The harder you play, the more they hurt. But you’ve got to leave the rink believing in what you’re doing and we’re playing the right way. Playing the right way doesn’t mean we’re going to win the next 50 games. That’s not the NHL. But if you play the right way, you’ve got a chance and I like where we’re at.

Kamil Krzaczynski / The Associated Press Chicago Blackhawks fight with Winnipeg Jets players during the first period on Sunday.

“We’ve got lots of growth and room to improve and all of that other stuff (you get) when you’re in mid-season, but we’ve got a good belief in who we are now and the style that we’ve got to play to win.”

The loss drops the Jets to 13-13-2, four points behind the Blackhawks, who improve to 14-9-4. The more disturbing number is this: Winnipeg is 3-7 against foes in the Central Division after going 16-8-5 against teams in their own division a season ago.

HOT HAND VS. HOT HISTORY

Maurice opted to tap Michael Hutchinson — winless in his last seven starts (0-6-1) — on the shoulder for the start in net rather than ride the recent work of rookie Connor Hellebuyck, who was sensational in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Washington to improve to 3-0 with a 0.97 goals-against average and .965 save percentage. The decision did have legs: Hutchinson had struggled lately, but was a career 4-0-1 with a 1.19 GAA and .965 save percentage against the Hawks.

But as steady as Hutchinson was Sunday afternoon, the game-winner was a softy, as Teuvo Teravainen’s sharp-angle shot caught him off the post. It spoiled what was an important game for the netminder, with Ondrej Pavelec shelved until next month and Hellebuyck staking a claim for more work during Hutchinson’s recent struggles.

“It was frustrating to lose that way,” Hutchinson said. “I definitely thought I should have had the second goal, so that’s really frustrating.

“The puck went up in the air and I saw he was all alone. When a skilled player has so much time, you’re kind of expecting him to bring the puck to the net or settle it down. As soon as he caught it, I glanced to check and see where everyone else is, because they’re a team that likes to make plays. As soon as I looked back (at the shooter), the puck was already on its way to me. It was a wobbling puck, too, so I didn’t get a good read on it. It’s one of those things where I’ve got to make those saves.”

BIG GUNS VS. BIG GUNS

The Jets have been carried offensively for a good chunk of the season by Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler on the top line and, of late, captain Andrew Ladd, who entered Sunday’s game with four goals and six points in his previous six games. But the Hawks’ top unit of Teravainen, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa was dominant in the head-to-head matchup. The Jets’ top trio wasn’t without its chances, combining for six shots on goal, but was also on the ice for all three Chicago markers, albeit the last one into an empty net.

SOMEBODY UPSTAIRS LIKES THEM

A trend the Jets will gleefully take more of: following up the conclusion of Saturday’s win over Washington — which featured a nine-minute review of Mark Scheifele’s overtime goal before the thumbs-up — they had a Blackhawks’ goal disallowed and then a review give them their only marker after play had continued.

The NHL’s situation room ruled Marcus Kruger’s first-period goal was caused by a distinct kicking motion. Later, a review after a whistle resulted in a goal being awarded to Chris Thorburn some 59 seconds after he had beaten Corey Crawford from in tight.

“I didn’t know,” said Thorburn. “Toby (Enstrom) made a great play up the ice, he centred the puck and I just got my stick on it. I thought it got jammed between the pad and the post, so that’s where I was looking, and all of a sudden the puck hit me in the chest. I thought, ‘where did that come from?’ I got back to the bench and guys were saying Matty (Prefontaine), our video guy, said it was in. I’ll take it.”

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

History

Updated on Sunday, December 6, 2015 5:34 PM CST: Adds live coverage widget.

Updated on Sunday, December 6, 2015 6:54 PM CST: Updates headline with final score.

Updated on Sunday, December 6, 2015 7:12 PM CST: Adds slideshow.

Updated on Sunday, December 6, 2015 7:13 PM CST: Adds final update

Updated on Sunday, December 6, 2015 7:23 PM CST: Adds post-game story from Associated Press.

Updated on Sunday, December 6, 2015 8:25 PM CST: Updates with post-game story by Ed Tait.

Updated on Sunday, December 6, 2015 10:36 PM CST: Writethru, changes headline.

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