Jets sputter in 6-3 loss to Oilers
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Just hours after being given a full vote of confidence by their general manager following a quiet trade deadline day, the Winnipeg Jets responded with a performance that will have many doubting this team is ready for prime time.
The Jets continued their free-fall of late, dropping a 6-3 decision to the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place Friday night. Winnipeg has now lost five straight games and seven of its last eight, to sit at 35-25-2.
Edmonton improved to 34-21-8 with the win, their second straight victory to open the month of March, which includes a 5-2 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. The win also evened the season-series, 1-1, between the two Western Conference clubs, as the Jets edged the Oilers, 2-1, back on New Year’s Eve.
“We made them look a whole lot better than they are. They’re a very good team, there’s no question about that, but my point is we made it very easy for them to play their game,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness told reporters. “We have to take a lot more pride in our ability to defend, which we were doing for most of the season, which is not nearly where it needs to be.”
Leon Draisaitl (2G, 1A), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2G, 2A) and Kailer Yamamoto (2G, 1A) each registered a pair of goals for Edmonton, while Connor McDavid finished with three assists. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Mark Scheifele and Brenden Dillon scored for the Jets.
The Jets won’t have to wait long to avenge their loss, with both clubs heading to Winnipeg to wrap up a home-and-home series at Canada Life Centre Saturday night. But before we look too far ahead, let’s dive deeper into Friday’s loss.
1) It certainly wasn’t the way the Jets envisioned starting this game, by giving the NHL’s best power play eight minutes in the first period. The Oilers entered the night clicking at 31.8 per cent on the man-advantage – more than six per cent better than the L.A. Kings in second.
Leon Draisaitl scored on the first power-play, giving the Oilers a 1-0 lead just 2:06 into the game with a shot that beat Connor Hellebuyck from the right of the net. But the Jets were able to kill off the other six minutes, including a Kevin Stenlund double minor for high-sticking, only to give the Oilers five more power plays before the night was over.
There’s been few games this season where the Jets have been as undisciplined as they were against the Oilers. And with all the penalties committed by the visitors, finding a rhythm at even strength would have been a stiff challenge.
“I haven’t coached a team, I think, that was so undisciplined and took so many penalties,” Bowness. “So, (if) you play a third of the game shorthanded, they’re going to make you look bad – and they made us look bad.”
Edmonton finished 2-for-9 on the power play, while Winnipeg went 1-for-3.
2) While the Jets managed to escape the first period mostly unscathed, the wheels began to fall off in the second.
Much like the opening frame, the Oilers wasted little time finding the back of the net. Nugent-Hopkins made it 2-0 at the 1:44 mark, taking full advantage of a giveaway in the slot by Jets defenceman Dylan DeMelo.
Edmonton would double its lead by the midway mark of the period, as Yamamoto scored twice over the span of 40 seconds to make it 4-zip.
He got his first on a breakaway, beating Hellebuyck on a move to the backhand, which came after the Jets were unable to register a shot on a 2-on-1 at the other end between Nikolaj Ehlers and Nino Niederreiter – it was that kind of night for the visitors. His second was the result of more sloppy play by Winnipeg in its defensive zone, as a failed attempt to clear the puck just inside the blue line led to Yamamoto cleaning up a rebound in front.
“We’re not moving our feet. You know your team is ready when your details on faceoffs are right on and we weren’t,” added Bowness. “We weren’t very good on the details at all in the faceoffs and we weren’t moving our feet at all.”
The Jets are 3-17-0 when trailing after two periods.
3) Bowness opted to rest Hellebuyck, who finished with 20 saves, for the third period, making way for David Rittich to take over the net. Different goalie, same result.
This time the Oilers waited 2:26 to score, with Nugent-Hopkins converting a beautiful pass from McDavid in front on the power play that gave Rittich no chance of making a stop. Rittich would get beat once more before night’s end, as Draisaitl found a puck-sized hole by his head on a bad-angled shot at the side of the net to make it a 6-1 game.
Less than a minute before the Draisaitl goal, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby broke Stuart Skinner’s bid for a shutout, scoring his fifth of the season. The Jets would add goals from Scheifele and Dillion to cut the Oilers lead to 6-3, but that amounted to little more than window dressing.
“They stopped playing a little bit,” said Bowness. “When you get outworked like they did and you don’t pay attention to the details and you don’t compete hard enough, then you end up looking bad. And we looked bad.”
4) Kevin Cheveldayoff said earlier in the day that he has faith in the Jets core players, a group he believes can take this team “to the next level.”
It’s safe to say the Jets aren’t on the rise and are closer to hitting rock bottom, assuming they’re not already there. The team looks slow and disinterested, which is exactly what you don’t want to look like at this time of the year, when the play ramps up and each point is important to determining where you finish in the standings.
Speaking of, the Jets remain in the second and final wildcard playoff spot, with the Oilers four points ahead of them, though having played one more game. Just seven points separate the Jets and the Central-Division leading Dallas Stars, with only a five-point difference between the Winnipeg and the ninth-place Calgary Flames.
Indeed, it’s a tight race in the Western Conference, but it won’t be all that close if the Jets can’t find a way to get back into the win column. With just 20 games remaining in the regular season, Winnipeg doesn’t have much time to find its groove, making Saturday’s rematch seemingly another “must-win” game.
“Yeah, well,” Bowness said when asked if he was glad to play the Oilers again within the next 24 hours, “we’re going to find out.”
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.