Jets lose 3-2 in OT to Avalanche in Buff’s return


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DENVER – It needed every last second to determine a winner – and then some – but once the smoke settled at the Pepsi Center in the Mile High City, it was the Winnipeg Jets who would fall just short in a back-and-forth affair, losing to the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in overtime. 

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/01/2018 (1978 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

DENVER – It needed every last second to determine a winner – and then some – but once the smoke settled at the Pepsi Center in the Mile High City, it was the Winnipeg Jets who would fall just short in a back-and-forth affair, losing to the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in overtime. 

Despite the loss, the Jets remain one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the entire National Hockey League – a young and resilient club that has continued to earn the reputation among their peers as a team certainly on the rise.

They once again proved both of those Tuesday night, even if they left with only one point. The Jets rallied back from two goals down to push it to extra time but it was Colorado defenceman Erik Johnson who would score on a breakaway in extra time with 9.9 seconds left to seal the win for the Avalanche.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski) Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, right, checks Winnipeg Jets center Marko Dano, of Austria, as they pursue the puck in the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, in Denver.

Johnson beat Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who had another stellar night between the pipes, with a shot high, the puck appearing to graze Hellebuyck’s shoulder before sailing to the top-left corner.

“I thought we deserved more,” said Hellebuyck, who finished with 23 saves, a number of his best coming in the extra period. “I’m sick of these overtime losses. I know this isn’t how the playoffs are going to go, but I’d like to have these points.”

While the Jets young stars like Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers often dazzle fans on a nightly basis, it was another familiar playmaker in veteran Blake Wheeler who stole the show for the visitors on this night. Wheeler scored both goals for the Jets to extend his goal streak to three games and point streak to four (four goals, one assist), including one with 56 seconds left in the third period to force overtime.

“He’s a big-time player,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice. “We cut down to three lines so they ran hard there towards the end of the game. He’s just a driver, such a fit man that he can push hard.”

With the loss, the Jets snap their perfect streak of 3-0 since the Christmas break and come home from the two-game road trip 1-0-1, after they blanked the Edmonton Oilers 5-0 on New Year’s Eve.

It was a disappointing loss for the Jets, who were the better team for long stretches of the game. Winnipeg has officially reached the midway mark of the season, accumulating a record of 23-11-7. To show just how far the Jets have come, at this point last season they were 19-19-3 – a difference of 12 points. 

Winnipeg remains in top spot in the Central Division with the Nashville Predators just two points behind after losing their game with the Las Vegas Golden Knights 3-0 last night. The Jets will have to wait a month before they get their revenge on the Avalanche, with the two teams playing twice in February.

The Jets are 1-7 this year in overtime and shootouts and 9-8-6 on the road.

“You wan to win every game but down 2-0 in the third on the road I thought it was a pretty good fight from our group,” said Wheeler, before adding that he doesn’t pay attention to the team’s win-loss record in extra time. “Just try to get one the next time we’re in overtime I guess.”

As for Colorado, they improved to 20-16-3 with the victory and have now won three straight games. They still have plenty of room to make up in the Central Division, jumping one point ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks into sixth place with the victory.

After a scoreless first period, something would finally give seven minutes and 44 seconds into the middle frame, as Avalanche leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon put the home team on the board with his 47th point of the year. MacKinnon kicked the puck from his foot to his stick to beat Hellebuyck – it was17th of the season, which ties his total from all of last season, with the Avalanche still having 43 games left to play this year.

MacKinnon was back at it again later in the period – this time with some nifty puck movement in the slot before dishing a pass to Mikko Rantanen for a one-timer that beat Hellebuyck high short-side. Suddenly the Avalanche held a 2-0 lead 11:31 into the second, despite being outshot by the Jets 21-13. Colorado wouldn’t register a single shot the rest of the period, taking a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski) Colorado Avalanche center Colin Wilson, center, is tied up by Winnipeg Jets defensemen Ben Chiarot, left, and Dustin Byfuglien while pursuing the puck in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, in Denver.

By the end, the Jets had outshot Colorado 45-26.

“We had like 89 shot attempts or some silly number like that, 31 of them blocked,” added Maurice. “You can’t get that many shots blocked – that’s a real sign that you’re not moving your feet quick enough. But with 89 shot attempts we’re in the right end of the ice. It wasn’t easy for us tonight – it wasn’t smooth.”

Winnipeg would finally get rewarded for their play early in the third, cutting the Avalanche lead to 2-1 just 47 seconds into the frame when Wheeler tipped home a shot from Laine that beat Avalanche tender Jonathan Bernier five-hole.

Most impressive was the fact Wheeler was able to keep his stick just high enough for it not to be called off for high-sticking – and also had a bit of luck as the puck grazed the post first before crossing the line. Bernier, who replaced No. 1 tender Semyon Varlamov late in the second period after Varlamov suffered a lower-body injury, pleaded his case for a no-goal call, but the play stood and wouldn’t be challenged by the Avalanche.

The goal also came on the power play, against a stingy Avalanche penalty kill that had killed off 36 straight trips to the box up to that point, their last power-play goal against coming back on Dec. 7.

But it was Colorado that seemed to gain momentum from the Jets goal, with forward Alexander Kerfoot on the receiving end of a glorious chance on the ensuing shift, getting a wide-open chance out in front. But Hellebuyck was able to snuff out the low shot with his glove to keep it a one-goal game. He’d bail the Jets out again midway through the third when he caught a puck with his left toe on a one-time shot from Colorado defenceman Patrik Nemeth on a two-on-one.

That set the stage for the Jets comeback. With Hellebuyck on the bench, Winnipeg used the extra attacker to flood the Avalanche. What ensued was chaos in front of the net, with Bernier sprawled out trying his best to keep the puck from entering the net. Eventually Wheeler tracked it down and banged it home to tie the game.

Tuesday also marked the return of defenceman Dustin Byfuglien to the lineup. Byfuglien had missed 10 games with a lower-body injury he suffered in a 4-3 OT loss to Tampa Bay Dec. 9. He wasn’t eased into it, either, with the big Jets defenceman logging 8:20 in the first period. He finished the game with 25 minutes and 11 seconds, with his last shift including a glorious chance to finish the game in overtime after he was sent in alone. The shot to the five-hole slid off the skate of Bernier and went wide.

The Jets head back home now and will return to action when they welcome Evander Kane and the Buffalo Sabres to town Friday night. The Sabres (10-20-9) sit dead last in the Atlantic Division and have won just two games in their last eight. Winnipeg is 14-3-1 at Bell MTS Place and has won 10 of the last 11, including three straight.  

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.


Updated on Wednesday, January 3, 2018 12:12 AM CST: Full write through

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