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This article was published 26/3/2012 (2936 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There’s little argument the Winnipeg Jets have been bursting at the seams over the last 20 or 30 games, trying to scrap their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But there’s also little doubt those seams are about to give because the stitches and duct tape can’t hold this willing but out-gunned outfit together much longer.
The Jets put up another determined fight Monday night at the MTS Centre, coming back three times to tie the game only to eventually give it away to the Ottawa Senators 6-4.
It’s now four losses in the last five games and we’re getting to the point where a miracle is going to be needed to see the post-season.
Winnipeg trails Washington and Buffalo, who share eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 84 points, by a full six and have just six games left themselves.
The next stressful step of this process comes tonight, when the Sabres and Capitals meet in Washington. Any way it falls tonight, the difference between the Jets and a playoff spot will be eight points — Winnipeg will have a game in hand — and next up here on Wednesday are the New York Rangers, who are first in the Eastern Conference.
Monday, the Jets just couldn’t seem to get a lead, yet three times turned deficits into tie games, including 4-4 with less than three minutes to go.
Evander Kane’s chest produced his first in six games by going to the net but the euphoria was short-lived as Daniel Alfredsson smacked one into the open side 24 seconds after that, with the Jets in full confusion mode.
"We chased the game," said Jets coach Claude Noel, in analytical mode, not anger mode, after his team fell to 35-33-8. "We were forever chasing the game. We kept coming back.... and eventually, there are some moments you could have taken some steps."
At either 3-3 late in the second, or 4-4, Noel suggested, it might have been a good idea to buckle down.
"This is where you’ve got to buckle down and say, ‘OK, we just need one here and we just need to settle down and play,’ " he said. "But we didn’t. Look at the plays that got made, but we battled all the way through to the Kane goal, and couldn’t even close it off then. It’s disappointing and it’s disappointing for the players, too."
The higher-skill Senators, outshot 48-35, made the most of their openings.
"If you want to get in a horse race against them, this is how the game winds up," Noel said. "You have to be able to regroup from situations and stay with the way you’re playing and I don’t think we did that.
"You get caught up in the (the emotion of the building) but you tie it late like that, you should be able to at least get to the point where you get a point.
"But to turn around and give up a goal on the next shift with your best players.... "
Winnipeg’s 48 shots were the most of any game this season. Whether that says something about how tough it is for opponents to play in the MTS Centre, the Senators’ porous tendencies or the Jets offensive generation isn’t clear.
What is clear is that Ottawa now has 88 points, is easily seventh in the conference and is headed for the playoffs.
"Guys are trying their best out there to make plays, create offence, get the puck out of the zone," Kane said about his team’s costly turnovers. "It happens to everybody.
"We battled all night. We had 48 shots, threw everything at the net. We had a lot of key chances, probably could have got eight or nine goals if we could have got those bounces. I thought we played pretty darn well and we lose."
The odds are dwindling for the Winnipeg Jets, but they are vowing to continue to scrap and fight until the plug is officially pulled on their playoff dream.
The website www.sportsclubsstats.com has the Jets' odds of making the playoffs now down to just 4.1 per cent, but they would jump – even minimally – with a victory tonight against the Ottawa Senators at MTS Centre (7:30 p.m.; TSN Jets/TSN Sports Radio). This is one of three remaining home games for the Jets who, at 35-32-8, trail eighth-place Buffalo by six points in the fight for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We’ve got to find ways to get this because for us, you can say all the clichés, but we have to win the game,” said Jet coach Claude Noel. “That’s really clear for us. Even if we win the game, our future this season is probably not going to be dictated not only by us, but by other teams beating people we need. We’re going to focus on just this game then we’ll focus on Wednesday.”
The Jets follow up tonight’s game with another home game Wednesday against the New York Rangers before heading out again for four games against Carolina, Tampa, Florida and the New York Islanders. The regular-season finale is here in Winnipeg on April 7 against Tampa and the Jets can only hope something is at stake for that game other than their potential draft position.
“The perspective’s pretty clear, honestly. Obviously we probably have to win all our games and it starts with tonight,” said winger Evander Kane. “You’ve got to take it game by game and as much as we’ve said that all year, that’s the way it is. We’re definitely not out of this. We’ve still got to stay positive, we can’t discouraged by what happened last week. We’ve got to move forward and finish out the season strongly because anything could happen here. We could go on a seven-game winning streak.
“We need to win hockey games in order to get points. We’re not in the position we want to be, so we have to win. We know that in this room.”
The Jets lost two of three on their recent road trip to Pittsburgh, Washington and Nashville, and have dropped three of their last four. And now they are talking about going on a seven-game win streak, or at least 6-1, while getting some help from their rivals.
“It’s definitely do-able. No one said we’re out right now,” said Tim Stapleton. “We’re still in it. We’ve just got to win. Obviously we’re not in the situation we want to be right now, but we’re definitely not out mathematically.”
On the injury front, Byran Little was at practice Monday and will play tonight. Nik Antropov also skated and Chris Thorburn will return to the ice on Wednesday. Noel said both players will be on the final road trip, but are unlikely to be available for Wednesday’s game against the Rangers.
Updated on Monday, March 26, 2012 at 5:43 PM CDT: Preps live coverage.
8:21 PM: Jets trail 1-0
9:19 PM: Updates, 3-3
9:37 PM: Adds seventh goal
10:19 PM: Adds final score
10:25 PM: Adds final result, updates
11:43 PM: Final wrap-ip