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This article was published 7/1/2017 (1510 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

BUFFALO — The Winnipeg Jets seemed destined for their first real run of the season.

Feeling good after a pair of wins in sunny Florida over the Tampa Bay Lightning and Panthers this week, the Jets arrived in Buffalo playing some of their best hockey of the campaign.

They continued that for most of the first two periods against the Sabres, only to stumble in the final 20 minutes. Holding a 3-1 edge going into the third period, Winnipeg was unable to weather a fierce attack from Buffalo, which rallied to win 4-3 Saturday afternoon at the KeyBank Center.

"They started getting pucks to our net," said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. "After the first one went in, they were just buzz-sawing in our zone. We couldn’t get them against the wall, couldn’t get out of our zone. They were funnelling pucks to the net and got a few to go in."

What’s worse, the Jets might have lost a lot more than the two points in the standings.

With the score tied 3-3 in the third period, Jets rookie forward Patrik Laine found himself on the receiving end of a big hit from Sabres defenceman Jake McCabe.

Laine had just taken a pass from linemate Mark Scheifele feet from the Jets blue line. He didn’t see McCabe coming from his right. The 18-year-old fell back, his head appearing to hit the ice.

"No update," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice after the game, noting he had no problem with the hit. "They hit heads. It was a straight-on hit."

Maurice said he didn’t know whether Laine has had a history with head injuries but didn’t believe he had.

Laine was later seen walking to the team’s bus, checking his cellphone as he exited the arena.

With Laine laying on the ice, Scheifele and a number of Jets players dropped their gloves. Before scrums broke out, Scheifele appeared to crosscheck McCabe in the face. McCabe had a visible cut under his eye after the game.

McCabe told reporters the cut came from the collision with Laine.

"Scheifele does what I think you’d want him to do," said Maurice. "Even if it’s clean like that, it’s an emotion — that’s an emotional reaction. I’m fine with how Scheif handled that."

When the dust finally settled, Laine headed to the dressing room and the Jets headed to the penalty kill, with Scheifele sent to the penalty box for roughing.

The Jets would eventually kill off the man advantage — one of four successful kills against a Sabres team ranked fifth on the power play — but were unable to garner any momentum, with Buffalo completing the comeback minutes later with a goal from captain Brian Gionta.

JEFFREY BARNES / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS</p><p>Patrik Laine is helped by a trainer after being hit during the third period in Buffalo.</p>


Patrik Laine is helped by a trainer after being hit during the third period in Buffalo.

"It’s obviously tough to see a guy like that leave the game," said Scheifele, "but we’ve got to rally around when something like that happens and everyone has to pick it up to fill the void."

Though it’s unclear when Laine will return (the Jets next play at home Monday against the Calgary Flames) any time missed will be a big loss for the Jets.

Laine, who had an assist Saturday, leads the Jets in goals (21) and points (37), while also playing a big role on the power play.

"That’s our best player, arguably," said Jets forward Drew Stafford. "It’s not good any time you see a guy in that kind of a position."

The Jets fell a game short of completing the sweep of their three-game road trip, dropping to 19-20-3 on the season. It was the eighth time the Jets had the chance to string together three consecutive wins this season, but for the eighth time, they failed.

The Sabres improved to 15-15-9 with the win.

The Jets opened the scoring minutes into the game with a goal from Nikolaj Ehlers, who now has nine goals in his last nine games.

Ryan O’Reilly scored with 24 seconds left, beating Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck five-hole to make it a 1-1 after 20 minutes.

Hellebuyck made his fourth consecutive start, finishing with 32 saves.

Before the Jets hit the road this week, the second period had been a sore spot, with Winnipeg boasting a minus-27 goal differential through the first 39 games. The Jets outscored Tampa and Florida in the second period and would do so for a third consecutive game against Buffalo.

Stafford and Joel Armia, two players who were pieces in a trade that sent Evander Kane to Buffalo midway through the 2014-15 season, provided the goals against their former team.

Stafford scored his third of the season on the power play, while Armia beat goalie Robin Lehner minutes later for his second of the year.

"We didn’t make very many puck mistakes in the first two and our assignments were real clean," said Maurice. "It’s really disappointing to have a period and then the game end up like that after playing consecutively, strong road hockey and feeling real confident with our game."

Then, the third period happened.

The Sabres got goals from Marcus Foligno and Zemgus Girgensons just 26 seconds apart to make it 3-3, setting the stage for Buffalo, which, from there, seemed to rally off the Laine hit.

"You got to chew on this one for a while because we played so darn well and we were pretty dominant," said Maurice. "At the end of the second (period), our game was about as good as it can be. You have to build on that but, it’s going to be tough to let that one go."

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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