The Winnipeg Jets played ugly, the Pittsburgh Penguins tossed up a touchdown for the second night in a row and the outcome Sunday night was entirely predictable.
Recent AHL call-up Sam Lafferty played the bounces well on the first two-goal game of his career, while Zach Aston-Reese and Jake Guentzel also scored twice to spark the Penguins to a 7-2 victory over a Jets squad that looked out of sorts at Bell MTS Place.
The Pens were a far fresher group than the Jets, despite the fact both squads were on the second half of a back-to-backs. Winnipeg rallied to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime Saturday, but botched an opportunity to post its fourth consecutive win, falling to 4-3-0.
Pittsburgh (4-2-0) fired 14 goals in 24 hours after hammering the Minnesota Wild 7-4 on Saturday night in St. Paul.
Laurent Brossoit, a spectator the last three contests, allowed seven goals on 28 shots in the Jets net — three pucks that eluded him were just high-speed games of Plinko.
"Puck bounced the wrong way (Sunday night)," said Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler, who was tied with his centre, Mark Scheifele, for a team-worst minus-4. "You don’t ever feel good about a goal going in your net, but it’s like, 'What do you do?' I thought (Brossoit) was really good all night. Some (bounces) kinda just went against us.
"It’s hard to really remember how every play unfolded. There might have been some miscommunication or some guys out of place, but for the most part, I thought we were in the right spots, defensively. We will get that cleaned up."
Winnipeg's usually steady backup wasn't at his sharpest, however, he wasn't solely to blame. No one in a Jets jersey was spared the goat horns against a Penguins team missing four key forwards to injuries, Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bjugstad, Alex Galchenyuk and Bryan Rust.
Mason Appleton took a careless tripping penalty six minutes into the middle period and Guentzel scored on the ensuing power play. Lafferty then supplied his first of two tallies 41 seconds later and the hosts were reeling.
"We take a penalty we don’t like... and then we’re down 3-1. That would be the turning point for me," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "We were in a fairly tight game. Not a heavy advantage to either team shot wise or chance wise. That’s where I thought it turned for us."
In another demonstration of mismanagement, Patrik Laine made a soft play along the wall that led to Dominik Simon's late second-period goal and a 4-2 Pittsburgh advantage.
The visitors added three goals in the final frame, including a short-handed breakaway tally by Aston-Reese — the third goal Winnipeg's power-play unit has yielded this season.
"Obviously, we can play better. There were definitely some mistakes in the game, but there were a lot of weird bounces. Not to make excuses, but over the course of 82 games, that’s one you put in the rearview mirror," said defenceman Josh Morrissey. Obviously, a tough schedule right now.
"We’ll watch video on some things we can improve on and take things that are meaningful from that game. But over 82 games, there are going to be some where the bounces don’t go your way and you’ve got to move on."
Mathieu Perreault opened the scoring with a freaky goal just 1:47 into the game, marking the only time this season the Jets have scored first. His centring pass from the corner boards deflected off the stick of Pens' Jared McCann and fluttered past goalie Tristan Jarry, making his first start of the season. He finished the night with 27 saves.
The lead was short-lived as Aston-Reese batted a rebound by Brossoit just over two minutes later.
After a mundane finish to the first period and an equally tedious pace for half of the middle frame, the Penguins took command. Guentzel converted a pretty touch pass from Brian Dumoulin with Appleton in the box and then Lafferty stuffed a puck behind Brossoit to make it 3-1 after the frozen biscuit hit the backboards and bounced in front.
The Jets trimmed the lead with a power-play goal of their own at the 10-minute mark. Laine's shot hit a leg and Scheifele fired the loose puck into an empty cage with Jarry turned the other way.
But Simon inflated the lead with another goal with just four minutes left in the middle period. Marcus Pettersson's point shot hit Laine's stick and bounced off Simon's foot, squirted to the side of Brossoit and was poked in by Simon.
Laine was replaced by Adam Lowry on the top line for the final shift of the period, a message from coach Paul Maurice, perhaps, for puck watching in the corner and then giving the goal scorer a free route to the net. Nikolaj Ehlers played the final period on the left side with Scheifele and Wheeler, while Laine joined Andrew Copp and Kyle Connor.
Maurice admitted juggling personnel at that point in time failed to spark his squad.
"I don’t think moving the lines around had a big impact on the game... probably should have done it earlier," he said.
"You know what, don’t take this game as permanent. We had a tough night tonight. We’ve been a pretty damn good team. We weren’t tonight. I’m leaving it."
Lafferty added his second goal of the night and third in 24 hours in the third period when his harmless wrister skimmed off Anthony Bitetto's skate and sailed behind Laurent. Guentzel beat Brossoit high to the glove side for his team-leading fourth of the season, and Aston-Reese poured salt on the wound with a shorthanded effort late in the final frame.
Wheeler said there won't be much hand-wringing internally over the blowout.
"I feel it’s just an outlier. I don’t feel it’s indicative of our team. We’ve obviously been behind a fair bit this year but we’ve stayed in the battle," he said. "We’ve fought all year. Every once and a while it’s going to go like that."
Winnipeg played its first seven games in 11 nights and has the Arizona Coyotes Tuesday at 7 p.m., the New York Islanders on Thursday, the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday and the L.A. on the following Tuesday to round out a five-game home stand.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Sunday, October 13, 2019 at 10:41 PM CDT: Writethru