December 17, 2017

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Record: 18 – 10 – 5

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Winnipeg Jets (18 – 10 – 5)

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Skating into a Motown meltdown

Winnipeg humbled by determined Detroit squad

Winnipeg Jets center Bryan Little tries to pass from the ice as Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green defends in the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday in Detroit.

(AP PHOTO/PAUL SANCYA)

Winnipeg Jets center Bryan Little tries to pass from the ice as Detroit Red Wings defenseman Mike Green defends in the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday in Detroit.

DETROIT — Instructed to leave their last dominant performance in the rear-view mirror, the Winnipeg Jets should probably let Tuesday’s sub-standard effort and eventual defeat sink in a little bit.

This was definitely not the same Jets squad from just 48 hours earlier, and the result was a stark reminder of the requirements necessary to maintain success in the NHL.

Kicking off a three-game road trip, Winnipeg chugged out of the Motor City and headed south to regroup following a 5-1 loss to the Red Wings.

The Jets, one of the league’s most dynamic teams, didn’t at all resemble the machine that ran roughshod over the Ottawa Senators, demonstrating neither the energy nor crispness that were so evident Sunday in the 5-0 shutout at Bell MTS Place.

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DETROIT — Instructed to leave their last dominant performance in the rear-view mirror, the Winnipeg Jets should probably let Tuesday’s sub-standard effort and eventual defeat sink in a little bit.

This was definitely not the same Jets squad from just 48 hours earlier, and the result was a stark reminder of the requirements necessary to maintain success in the NHL.

Kicking off a three-game road trip, Winnipeg chugged out of the Motor City and headed south to regroup following a 5-1 loss to the Red Wings.

The Jets, one of the league’s most dynamic teams, didn’t at all resemble the machine that ran roughshod over the Ottawa Senators, demonstrating neither the energy nor crispness that were so evident Sunday in the 5-0 shutout at Bell MTS Place.

Consequently, Winnipeg (17-7-4) lost in regulation for the first time in five games, while Detroit (11-12-5) bounced back from a 10-1 beat-down by the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday to snap a seven-game winless skid.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice had advised his club to quickly erase the rout of the ill-prepared and uninspired Senators from their memory banks. Translation? Easy games like that one are an anomaly in the NHL.

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37) stops a shot as Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha (39) jumps in front of the net in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)</p>

Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37) stops a shot as Detroit Red Wings right wing Anthony Mantha (39) jumps in front of the net in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

But there’s a lesson to be learned from the loss to the Red Wings, a desperate hockey club who stormed out of the gate and never looked back against the Jets.

Perhaps some adversity might not be such a bad thing to keep the Central Division club grounded.

"We should be desperate, too," said Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler. "There’s nothing given here. We’re on a nice little run but we knew what was at stake for them. You get embarrassed 10-1, you come home saying all the right things. I think we said all the right things before the game but we just weren’t ready.

"I think the last two games were a little bit easy for us and we played an opponent that was hungry tonight and we just weren’t able to match them early on."

Winnipeg dropped from first in the Western Conference to tied for second (with St. Louis), as both the Blues and the Nashville Predators posted wins Tuesday. The Predators are alone atop the Central Division and the conference.

Gustav Nyquist had a pair of goals for the Red Wings, including a controversial tally early in the third period to hand the hosts a 3-1 lead. Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and David Booth also scored.

Patrik Laine ripped the Jets’ lone marker, his 14th of the year, on the power play to cut the lead to 2-1 but the visitors couldn’t get closer.

Jets centre Adam Lowry said important lessons can be learned each time points are earned playing the right way or squandered when there’s a lack of execution.

"From every game, there are things you can take. Tonight, we slowed things down in the neutral zone and didn’t move the puck too cleanly," said Lowry.

"There are lessons from both (the Ottawa and Detroit) games you can take and you have to give (the Red Wings) some credit. They were able to respond after a real tough loss. They did a good job."

The Jets were still just a shot away from knotting the game until Nyquist’s second of the night at 4:55 of the third. Draped all over goalie Connor Hellebuyck, he tipped in a shot on a play that was reviewed not once but twice.

It was ruled a good goal because the puck wasn’t deflected with an elevated stick, and NHL hockey operations also deemed there was no goalie interference on the play because Jets blue-liner Josh Morrissey directed Nyquist into Hellebuyck.

Maurice wasn’t convinced the appropriate call was made.

"I didn’t agree with it then and I don’t agree with it now," he said.

Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers (27) skates past Detroit Red Wings center Frans Nielsen (51) in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)</p>

Winnipeg Jets left wing Nikolaj Ehlers (27) skates past Detroit Red Wings center Frans Nielsen (51) in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

A homecoming was spoiled for Hellebuyck, who hails from Commerce, Mich., about 55 kilometres from Detroit. He stopped 27 shots but didn’t get a whole lot of help.

Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard wasn’t overly busy but several of his 25 saves were beauties, including a leg save off Andrew Copp in the second period to preserve a one-goal cushion.

Dmitry Kulikov helped killed off a pair of two-man advantages — including a gutsy shot block that left him hobbling to the bench — and was the only Jets defenceman not in the minus column.

Detroit finished 0-for-6 on the power play.

"I thought our penalty kill was pretty darn good, really, led by Dmitry Kulikov," said Maurice.

"Sadly, he had an outstanding performance and we don’t get to talk about that a whole lot."

Following the game, the Jets bolted for Florida — with a tilt against the Panthers set for Thursday night and a battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning slated for Saturday.

The Jets are back home Monday, Dec. 11 to play the Vancouver Canucks.

Rookie left-winger Kyle Connor returned to the lineup after missing the game against Ottawa because of a foot injury.

Connor, a product of Shelby Township, Mich., rejoined one of the league’s top tandems, centre Mark Scheifele and Wheeler — but the line mustered little in the way of offence.

Maurice said the two offensive catalysts shouldn’t shoulder the brunt of the blame for this one.

"We had other players who were equally as off. They didn’t have a good game but I don’t think they were on an island with the two of them," he said. "We had lots of people to keep them company."

For the Jets, it was their first-ever visit to the new home of the Wings, Little Caesars Arena, after the closure of iconic, riverfront Joe Louis Arena at the end of last season.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Read more by Jason Bell.

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History

Updated on Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 10:29 PM CST: adds photo

10:54 PM: Full write through

11:17 PM: Final edit

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