Lowly Sharks take bite out of Jets

Collapse continues with ugly loss after team blows lead in dying seconds of game


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It will go down as one of the uglier losses for the Winnipeg Jets in a season that’s had plenty of stinkers in recent weeks.

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It will go down as one of the uglier losses for the Winnipeg Jets in a season that’s had plenty of stinkers in recent weeks.

The Jets needed to stave off the lowly San Jose Sharks for 11 more seconds, but a breakdown in their own end led to a tying goal from Tomas Hertl that forced overtime. The visitors would ice it 1:21 into the extra period, as Logan Couture beat Jets goalie David Rittich on a breakaway to seal a 3-2 win in front of a season-low crowd of 13,026 at Canada Life Centre Monday night.

Nino Niederreiter and Nate Schmidt scored for the Jets, who dropped to 36-25-3. The Jets have lost six of their last seven games and are 2-6-2 in their last 10.

“I mean, we outplayed them tonight,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “It’s hard when you lose that extra point in overtime. You’re disappointed. It’s hard to get a good picture right now. We’ll take time tomorrow, re-evaluate, take a look at the whole game, take a look at the power play, and come up with something different. Did we play a bad game? Absolutely not. Did we deserve two points? Yeah. But we didn’t get them. That’s hockey.”

The Sharks snapped a five-game losing streak with the victory, improving to 19-33-12 on the year. Steven Lorentz rounded out the scoring for San Jose, who continue on their three-game road trip through Colorado today and St. Louis Thursday.

The Jets remain in third place in the Central Division, with 75 points, three back of the Minnesota Wild and six back of the Dallas Stars in first. The Sharks stay tied with the Anaheim Ducks for last place in Pacific Division.

Let’s dig a little further into this one…

1 The Jets were the better team through the opening 20 minutes, doubling the Sharks in shots 14-7, but still left the first period trailing 1-0.

San Jose opened the scoring at the 14:13 mark, with fourth-liner Lorentz beating Rittich with a soft backhanded shot at the side of the net for his seventh of the season. Rittich had been struggling all period with his glove, bobbling a couple shots before mishandling an Oskar Lindblom wrister that led to the Lorentz marker.

It wasn’t as though the Jets were without their chances, including a couple power plays. Newcomer Nino Niederreiter, who was looking for his first goal as a Jet since being acquired from the Nashville Predators on Feb. 25, had two glorious chances on the man-advantage, including a clear shot from the slot that had Sharks goalie James Reimer peeking behind him.

Surprisingly, the Sharks, despite a rough season, entered the game with the fifth-ranked penalty kill, clicking at 82.8 per cent. They allowed the Jets just three shots on the power play in the first period and were a perfect 6-for-6 on the PK on the night.

2 Niederreiter was back at it in the second period, this time converting from the slot, with the 30-year-old spinning and firing a shot high and past the glove of Reimer to even the score at 1-1.

It was not only his first goal with his new club, but the 200th of his career. Niederreiter was brought in to add scoring and he now has points in three straight games, including Monday’s goal and two assists.

“That’s what we need from him. He’s a big, heavy guy,” Bowness said. “So, he’s everything that we hoped he would be.”

Niederreiter’s marker came shortly after a pair of glorious chances by Winnipeg, with Blake Wheeler whiffing on a chance in close, only for it to find the stick of Adam Lowry, who missed a wide-open net.

The Jets left the period tied 1-1, but could/should have been up a goal or two given the other quality opportunities they were able to generate. As good as the Sharks are on the penalty kill, they’re among the worst teams on the power play, ranked 26th and with the fourth-most short-handed goals against, with nine.

Jets forward Morgan Barron threatened to add to that total but was stopped not once, but twice, by Reimer on a pair of short-handed chances. He fired a pass from Saku Maenalanen on a two-on-one, but Reimer flashed the leather, robbing him of a sure goal. Barron was then sprung on a breakaway on a penalty kill later in the period and made a nice move to his forehand but couldn’t beat the right skate blade of Reimer, the puck ricocheting up and out of harm’s way.

3 The Jets go-ahead goal in the third would come from an unlikely source in defenceman Nate Schmidt. But as far as storylines go, it doesn’t get much better.

Schmidt went from the doghouse to penthouse, scoring his sixth of the season at the 14:53 mark of the third period. He was a healthy scratch for Saturday’s game against the Oilers, a move Rick Bowness noted after the morning skate was in the making for some time.

“You give your team a chance to win with a couple minutes left in the game. Our power play had had some chances,” Schmidt said. “In the second period we had some chances that we didn’t capitalize on. We take pride in that unit as well. I think that was exciting. I was pretty fired up.”

Schmidt was challenged to be better and delivered, beating Reimer just seconds after a powerplay expired. It’s too bad his party was spoiled with a late goal from Hertl.

Speaking of which, Hertl took full advantage of some puck luck after a shot from the point deflected off Wheeler’s stick and right to his blade, with Hertl firing a one-timer high and past a stunned Rittich.

4 Credit to Reimer for the stellar evening, in his first game in his home province since Nov. 11, 2021 — a 4-1 Jets win. The Morweena product finished the game with 36 saves, many of which kept his team in it and gave them a chance to win.

“It’s good to battle back and just play with that compete and that willingness to do whatever it takes,” Reimer said. “The boys, they left it all out there.”

Reimer told reporters shortly after the March 3 trade deadline had passed that he hoped to get dealt to a playoff-bound team. He’ll spend the remainder of the season in sunny San Jose before becoming a free agent on July 1.

You’ve got to feel for Rittich, who stopped 22 pucks. The first goal was a lousy one, but the last two could hardly be blamed on him.

Particularly in overtime, during which the Jets completely abandoned their defensive assignments, leading to a breakaway for Couture from the red line. Couture made no mistake from there, finding an opening through the five-hole on a nifty move to the backhand.

Up next: The Jets wrap up a three-game homestand Wednesday with a tilt against division rival Minnesota Wild. After that, Winnipeg hits the road for three straight games, with stops in Florida, Tampa Bay and Carolina.

jeff. hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

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.

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