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This article was published 13/3/2019 (444 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Nikolaj Ehlers conceded he messed up — big time.
A risky pass by the Winnipeg Jets winger was intercepted in the San Jose zone, a couple of talented Sharks forwards, Timo Meier and Joe Pavelski raced away, and the rest, as they say, is history.
"Obviously, a dumb mistake at the end," the 23-year-old said Wednesday after the Jets finished practising.
Pavelski scored on the two-on-one break with 4.3 seconds left in regulation time to lift the visiting Sharks to a 5-4 triumph over the Jets on Tuesday.
'I want to make nice passes, but at some point during the game you gotta start playing the simple game and just chip in the puck, get the puck to the net and create something off that, and I didn't do that (Tuesday) night'– Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers
It was the first of three games for the Jets this week against a few of the NHL's premier squads. The Boston Bruins provide the opposition Thursday night, while the Calgary Flames are in town Saturday.
Ehlers continued on his crusade to beat himself senseless over the choice to try to feed Andrew Copp in the high slot with under 10 seconds left of a tied game rather than play it simple... play it safe.
"It’s a stupid play. You’ve got eight seconds left. To try and force that through (where it) hasn’t been going through all game?" Get that puck to the net, get a rebound, maybe you get it in," he said, answering his own question. "That’s a much better option, obviously. I think that last pass I tried to do there was just kind of how the night went for me, trying to force things and trying to make plays that weren’t there.
"I want to make nice passes, but at some point during the game you gotta start playing the simple game and just chip in the puck, get the puck to the net and create something off that, and I didn’t do that (Tuesday) night."
The new line of Ehlers with centre Kevin Hayes and Kyle Connor lost some of its lustre as the trio finished a combined minus-11 for the evening. The unit squandered puck possession in the Sharks zone and really struggled with coverage in its own end.
There's plenty of creativity and skill on that line, but attempts to generate pretty goals can't trump sound defensive work, said Jets head coach Paul Maurice.
"That last goal was a prime example. Certain kinds of turnovers are so difficult to defend," he said. "We end up defending in our end for periods, because we just didn't cut off plays that weren't there. We forced them. That would be the big one."
Ehlers was the poster boy for bad decisions against the Sharks but was, by no means, the only guilty party for the Jets, who received a game-tying goal from Mathieu Perreault with just under four minutes remaining in the third period.
Amped up by the comeback, the hosts pressed for the winner and lost sight of their defensive obligations. Veteran blue-liner Tyler Myers jumped into the rush and was caught deep in enemy territory when Ehlers' seam pass was broken up by Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
That left Myers' defensive partner, Dmitry Kulikov, to fend for himself.
"You try to do the best you can. I had the right level on them and I could see Pavelski going a little bit too far, to the far post," Kulikov explained. "So, when I turned (Meier) throws a high saucer (pass) that lands right on his stick. It just happens.
"I looked at the clock, there was some seconds left. It sucks."
He said there's a tough lesson to be learned amidst the bitterness of losing late.
"I just think on our part we should be focusing on playing better defensively than scoring goals," said Kulikov. "We can score goals in bunches if we frustrate them defensively, that’s when they’re going to make mistakes and we get our chances."
Assistant sports editor
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).
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