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This article was published 14/2/2019 (190 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A desperate opponent. A sloppy effort. A predictable result.
That might be the simplest way to sum up the Winnipeg Jets' lethargic 4-1 loss Thursday to a Colorado Avalanche team that came to Bell MTS Place winless in its the past eight (0-5-3) to fall out of the playoff picture.
But give full marks to the visitors, who showed they wanted — and, quite frankly, needed — this one a lot more than the home team. The Jets couldn't get anything going against an opponent they left in the Central Division dust weeks ago.
"They were a desperate team. It’s been going tough for them. There was a certain amount of desperation in their game. We weren’t able to match it often enough," a rather succinct captain Blake Wheeler said following the game.
'They were the better team, they deserved the two points. That’s what they got leaving here' - Jets defenceman Tyler Myers
Winnipeg falls to 36-19-3, losing in regulation at home for the first time in 10 games. Colorado improves to 23-23-11, pulling them to within two points of the final Western Conference wild-card playoff spot.
The defeat isn't really costly for the Jets as they still sit on top of the Central Division standings. No harm, no foul in that sense.
But it was the kind of casual approach and poor execution that has crept into their game with alarming regularity, and which they'll want to flush out of their system as soon as possible heading down the stretch drive and into the playoffs.
"They were the better team, they deserved the two points. That’s what they got leaving here," said defenceman Tyler Myers. "Games like that are going to happen. It’s how you respond to them. (Thursday) was an off night for us. We want to get to a consistency we can carry into a good playoff series."
The turning point of the game was a perfect example, with the Jets on a second-period power play and down by a goal. But rather than firing on all cylinders and tying it up, as no doubt many fans expected, Winnipeg coughed up the puck, lost a foot race and watched Colorado's J.T. Compher score a short-handed goal that proved to be the dagger.
"Obviously you’re trying to tie the game on your power play and you give one up. That’s pretty deflating for your team," said Wheeler.
Winnipeg's power play, long a strength for the club this season, is now mired in a 0-for-17 stretch over the last six games, including going 0-for-4 Thursday.
"They were just a little bit quicker than we were. Forced some turnovers, they certainly countered off them, a couple real quick," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice, who did make one noteworthy change in the third period as slumping winger Patrik Laine was put back on the top power-play unit.
Laine had been bumped down to the second unit in favour of Jack Roslovic four-and-a-half games ago, but that experiment appears to have come to an unproductive end.
Laine had a more inspired game, getting physical at times to win puck battles, making a couple of nice passes and ripping off a couple of quality scoring chances, finishing the game with six shot attempts, including four on net. But luck doesn't seem to be on his side these days as his scoring drought hit 13 games. He has just one goal in his last 20 games.
"I liked his game tonight. I thought five-on-five he was skating and working and he had some good looks. He had his game going," said Maurice.
The Jets came close to opening the scoring as Andrew Copp rang a shot off the crossbar in the first few minutes of the game. But it was the Avalanche who drew first blood as Dominic Toninato scored 5:21 into the first period after the Jets turned the puck over in their end.
Brendan Lemieux failed to clear it, and defencemen Joe Morrow and Tyler Myers let a pair of Avalanche get in behind them. For Toninato, it was his first NHL goal in his 38th career game.
Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog doubled the lead just past the midway mark of the period as he was allowed to cruise right up the middle uncontested and beat Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck for his 30th of the year. It was another example of the Jets being too soft in their own end.
Brandon Tanev cut the deficit in half just 24 seconds later, beating Semyon Varlamov on a shot the Colorado goalie would likely want back, though it was tipped by Avs' defenceman Tyson Barrie's stick. Tanev continued to add to his career-high, now up to 12 goals.
But then came the Compher goal just over six minutes into the second period, which seemed to suck any remaining life out of the Jets. Any hope of a comeback was thwarted with just under four minutes to play, as Sven Andrighetto scored on a two-on-one rush only seconds after Laine was robbed by Varlamov.
"I don’t think we played our best game. We didn’t get as many pucks to the net as we wanted in traffic and making it difficult for him to see those. But I think we can learn from this and we look forward to playing the next one," said Tanev.
Varlamov finished with 24 saves. Hellebuyck was much busier, stopping 31 pucks.
"We knew they were going to be a desperate team coming in, and they were. Give them credit, they played a good 60 minutes of hockey. We didn’t. I thought we got away from simplifying our game a little bit. But we’ve regrouped and bounced back before. We’ll do it next game," said Myers.
Winnipeg wraps up the three-game homestand Saturday evening when the league-worst Ottawa Senators come to town. The Jets will be looking to avenge a 5-2 defeat in the nation's capital last weekend.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Thursday, February 14, 2019 at 10:42 PM CST: Full writethrough with quotes.