Jets end epic home stand with 4-3 loss to L.A.
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/02/2018 (1925 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Winnipeg Jets certainly weren’t going to be a perfect 10 but would have gladly accepted a hard seven. Instead, the homebodies settled for six wins during their longest stretch at Bell MTS Place in franchise history.
Winnipeg wrapped up its epic homestand over much of the month of February on a sour note Tuesday night as penalties and glaring defensive-zone troubles led to 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
The Jets went 6-3-1 during the stretch that began Jan. 30 with a victory over the Tampa Bay Lighting, earning 13 of a possible 20 points along the way.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler had mixed feelings about the team’s productivity during the three-week stretch.
“We’ve set a pretty high bar for ourselves at home. Would we have liked to go 7-2-1? Absolutely. Coming into it, I think we thought we’d have an opportunity to win. Just didn’t go our way (Tuesday),” said Wheeler. “I think our group is setting the bar high. It was OK. It didn’t kill us. It didn’t necessarily vault us to a spot that we were hoping to get to. There’s a lot of work to be done.”
The Jets (35-16-9) slipped to second place in the Central Division, two points back of the Nashville Predators (36-15-9), who narrowly defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 Tuesday.
Winnipeg was knee-deep in the hoopla of the Western Conference playoff chase when the homestand began and there’s been only slight modifications to the landscape now that it’s done.
The team’s last road game was 27 days ago, a 4-3 shootout defeat to the Anaheim Ducks. When they returned home after the all-Star break to face the Lightning, the Jets were 29-13-8, tops in the Central and second in the conference. The Jets were also nine points above the playoff line.
This morning? Winnipeg finds itself eight points ahead of the Ducks, who are just below the line.
Jets centre Mark Scheifele, who rejoined the team for the last six games of the homestand after returning from a suspected shoulder injury, said they stowed away critical points as the club pushes for a lofty spot in the standings.
“We played pretty solid, obviously we wish we could have got the win (against L.A.) but, obviously, we got a good amount of points at home. That’s always a positive.”
“When you get that long of a home stretch, you’re hoping you get a lot of wins, get a lot of points there. For us, we did a good job but obviously wish we could have had tonight.”
The Jets get a day away from the rink Wednesday, practise at home Thursday and then hit the road for back-to-backs against divisions rivals — the St. Louis Blues on Friday and the Dallas Stars on Saturday.
The rink on the old Eaton’s site has been a giant shop of horrors for visiting clubs since the early stages of the 2017-18 NHL schedule. Winnipeg is 23-6-2 at home.
But Scheifele said the team is fully prepared to hit the road.
“Yeah, when you’re at home for a while you kinda get into a bit of a funk just doing the same thing over and over. It can get a little redundant after a while,” he said. “You get on the road, you get to be with just the guys, it’s always good to have that camaraderie on the road.”
The Jets faced a team coming off a 3-1 victory Monday night in Chicago that arrived in town in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. And the Kings looked sleepy in the opening period as the hosts jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Wheeler’s 17th with Winnipeg on a two-man advantage.
But things took turn a dramatic turn in the middle period as the Jets got into penalty troubles — Kyle Connor’s trip in the neutral zone was pure laziness, while Nic Petan’s purposeful slash was just plain dumb — and the Kings made them pay with power-play goals by defencemen Alec Martinez and Dion Phaneuf, his third in four games since coming over in a recent trade from Ottawa.
How unhappy was head coach Paul Maurice with the five stick infractions?
“(Dustin Byfuglien’s) first one (tripping) wasn’t a penalty. (I) didn’t care for two or three of them. Really didn’t like Petan’s,” said Maurice. “That’s a lesson that doesn’t take too long to learn.”
There were easy-to-spot defensive blunders, such as an errant clearing pass by Nikolaj Ehlers that led to Torrey Mitchell’s third-period tally that snapped a 2-2 tie, and Dmitry Kulikov’s decision to vacate the front of the net and chase Tyler Toffoli that led to Dustin Brown’s late goal to make it 4-2.
“Even having watched it five times, I can’t fully explain that, how we got to that decision,” Maurice said of Kulikov’s poor decision. “But mistakes get made.”
Winnipeg also got goals from Byfuglien, with his fourth, and Patrik Laine, with his 28th with just 49 seconds left.
Kings goaltender Darcy Kuemper finished the night with 30 saves, while Connor Hellebuyck, making his ninth straight start, made 28 saves
Hellebuyck said he wasn’t particularly enthralled with his performance, although he looked to be screened on goals by Martinez and Phaneuf.
“I still feel like I have more to give. If I had to redo it, I think I would do things differently. But you can’t be A-plus every single night, 82 times,” he said. “The wear and tear on your body is going to get you one of these games. I’ve got to use this and I’ve got to learn from this.”
He was asked if the strain of 50 starts is starting to affect him.
“It’s a lot of hockey, but I’ve really learned how to manage my body and this is another big stepping stone for that process. Now I know that I like to skate every day and maybe take the morning off. Maybe I learn something about my recovery. I’m going to really go in the gym and make sure I really recover after this one and learn from it.”
Maurice said he senses his squad is ready for a change of scenery.
“This is the longest stretch I’ve ever been through. We’ve had a lull, I’ve felt, in it. It’s hard to explain, but it’s good. I’m sure all the wives will be making sure nobody’s late (for the plane),” he said.
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 11:39 PM CST: Full write through, final version