There will be some nights in the National Hockey League where your goalie gives you a chance to win but you still fall short. For the Winnipeg Jets, that's becoming a running theme.
Despite another valiant effort by Connor Hellebuyck, the Jets were once again unable to find the winning recipe, falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 at Canada Life Centre Monday night.
Hellebuyck made 33 saves in the loss, with several of those shots coming from in close. He was relatively quiet early on, facing just five shots in the opening 20 minutes. But for the final two periods, the veteran netminder was asked to keep his team close.
Hellebuyck would do just that, but the rest of the Jets couldn't live up to their end of the deal, particularly on offence. The Jets registered 31 shots, with only a few threatening to score.
Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry entered the game with coming off back-to-back shutouts, but Winnipeg did little to test him. Several shots either missed wide or sailed high over the net.
"We didn’t really get too many good looks. We had 30-some-odd shots. It was pretty perimeter, I think," Jets forward Kyle Connor said after the game. "I had a breakaway, lost the puck. Other than that, I didn’t think we challenged him too hard. Made his night pretty easy, to be honest."
With the loss, the Jets dropped to 9-5-4 on the year and extended their losing streak to three games. The Jets are now tied with the St. Louis Blues, with 22 points, for second place in the Central Division, one point behind the Minnesota Wild.
The victory improved the Penguins record to 8-6-4 and extended their winning streak to three games, including wins on the road this week against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens. With 20 points, Pittsburgh moved from seventh place to a tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets for fourth in the Metropolitan Division.
Winnipeg will now head to Columbus to kick off a three-game road trip beginning with the Blue Jackets Wednesday, followed by back-to-back games against the Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames Friday and Saturday night.
"Probably just getting inside a little bit more," forward Andrew Copp said when asked what the Jets need to do to get back into the win column. "I think our offensive game, yeah, we’ve got a lot of guys that create off the rush but if we can get that offensive zone a little bit more, pucks to the net, a little bit more greasier, if we can add that dimension, I think that’s going to open up that rush game that much more, especially if we can get the first goal and make teams chase us, that’s kind of when things open up for us."
The Jets had one of their better first periods, taking advantage of a Penguins team at the end of a three-game road trip. Shots were 11-2 in favour of the Jets at one point late in the frame, with the period ending at 11-5.
Winnipeg opened the scoring at the 10:27 mark, with Dominic Toninato earning his second goal of the season. Toninato pounced on a blocked shot by Neal Poink shot in the slot, cradling the puck before spinning and beating Jarry with a wrister low glove side. Brenden Dillon drew the second assist.
The Penguins might have only had five shots, but a couple of them were dangerous. Connor Hellebuyck had to rob Sidney Crosby fewer than 25 seconds into the game, stretching across the crease to steal what looked to be a sure goal. Jake Guentzel was also turned aside later in the period, after being found with a pass wide open in front.
Guentzel was back at in the second, this time wide open at the side of the net on the power play. But Hellebuyck once again found a way to keep the puck out of the net, sprawling on the ice to make the save.
Hellebuyck needed to be sharp earlier in the period, while the Jets were on the man-advantage, after Teddy Blueger found an open lane to the net. He got a piece of the shot with his glove, directing the puck just enough to hit the post and trickle wide.
"I thought it flattened out after it went to 1-1," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "But we were slow in the third. We got the lead and got above it. We did not help ourselves with what we did with the puck and then we didn’t have very much."
Pittsburgh would eventually find the equalizer with 5:31 remaining in the middle frame. Jason Zucker snuck behind the Jets defence and while positioned alone in front converted an Evan Rodrigues pass with a shot high glove-side that whipped by Hellebuyck for his fourth of the season.
The Jets had a chance late in the period to steal momentum, heading to the power play following a goalie interference call on Guentzel. But despite some quality chances, including an open shot by Pierre-Luc Dubois in front, Jarry kept the door closed and the score 1-1 heading into the third period.
Winnipeg looked prime to come out in the third and dictate play against a team that hadn't slept in their own bed the last six days. But it was Pittsburgh that was the quicker team to open the final 20 minutes.
The Penguins were hard on the forecheck and tough on pucks, sustaining pressure in the Jets end for long stretches. That hard work eventually paid off just minutes into the period, when Danton Heinen passed the puck to the point and then collected his own rebound to put the visitors up 2-1.
"Because you got it going and you like the way you got it going and you can sell that and be honest about the fact that you’ve lost your two games coming into tonight, but you liked your two games," Maurice said. "But then when you get one you lose, and you don’t like a period and that’s a big chunk of hockey, then you’re not going to be happy."
Winnipeg had its opportunities to tie, but either couldn't finish or sailed the puck high or wide. Connor was sprung for a breakaway near the midway mark of the third period but lost control of the puck just enough for Jarry to get a skate on the shot. Connor then skied a shot over the net five minutes later, unable to convert the rebound at the side of the net.
The Jets pulled there goalie with 2:30 remaining but shortly thereafter Guentzel iced the game with an empty-net goal.
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.