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This article was published 31/12/2016 (1757 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There was no way to sugarcoat this dud.
The Winnipeg Jets, hoping to return to the .500 mark and end 2016 in style, staged a real stinker at the MTS Centre Saturday night, losing 6-2 to the New York Islanders.
The Jets looked slow, played out of rhythm and seemed resigned to their fate by the middle of the second period.
"It’s pretty self-explanatory," said a subdued Jets captain Blake Wheeler. "It wasn’t good enough and the score was indicative of that."
Veteran Winnipeg defenceman Dustin Byfuglien wasn't any kinder.
"Kind of just quitting on ourselves, not all the way, but not doing the right things the whole time," said Byfuglien, explaining his disappointment. "But it’s one game; throw it away and go on to the next one."
The Islanders, hardly an Eastern Conference powerhouse, improved to 15-15-6 after a 32-save performance by Thomas Greiss.
Winnipeg, which fell to 17-19-3 overall, now heads out on the road for three games beginning Tuesday night in Tampa, Fla., against the Lightning.
Nikolay Kulemin, John Tavares, Shane Prince, Ryan Strome, Anders Lee and Andrew Ladd scored for the Islanders, who led 2-0 and 4-1 at the period breaks.
Strome's goal at 14:13 of the second period gave the Islanders a 4-0 lead and chased Jets starter Connor Hellebuyck from the net after stopping only 11 of 15 shots.
The 23-year-old from Commerce, Mich., did not have a good night and heard about it from Winnipeg fans.
"We got young guys up front and when they have a minus-3 night (Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers), there’s not much said," said Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice.
"You don’t notice it and you don’t ask me a lot of questions about it. When you have a couple of young guys, or anybody, struggling on the back end a little bit you sort of notice it.
"When you have a young guy in net who has a tough night, you see it front and centre. Two of (Hellebuyck’s) last three games have been pretty darn good -- one very good. But tonight he really struggled in that net, as did the rest of the hockey team. So he has to find a way to get better and we all have to do better in front of him to give him a chance."
'We all have to be better'
Shawn Matthias, with his fourth of the season while short-handed, and Ehlers, with his 10th on the power play, scored for the hosts.
"To come home and have the advantage, to play like that tonight is unacceptable," said Matthias. "Our line has to be better. We all have to be better. Win and lose as a team. Tonight wasn’t our best, we know that.
"But we can’t get down and frustrated. We have to keep building, keep getting better and improving."
Michael Hutchinson came on in relief for Winnipeg to make seven saves.
"That effort level tonight out there wasn’t acceptable and definitely something that needs to be addressed," said Jets centre MarkScheifele. "At the end of the day, that’s what it is, it’s hard work. Battling through adversity. Battling through all the stuff that goes on in a game.
"Not every shift is going to go as planned, but for us, we need to battle through it, every bump and bruise, every miscue during the game and support each other that way."
'We just weren't very good tonight'
Saturday's loss, coming on the heels of a 5-3 home loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, seemed to be a breakdown on many levels.
"We just weren’t very good tonight, almost in all facets," said Maurice. "We had some spurts of zone time, but there wasn’t enough. We’ve scored one 5-on-5 goal in our last two games.
"We’re doing some things with the puck in the offensive zone that aren’t going the way we want them to go. The last two games are harder games, harder on the puck kind of games. We weren’t particularly simple in a lot of what we did."
Ladd, returning to Winnipeg for the first time since becoming the Islanders' chief free-agent signing in the off-season, had this to say when asked what he was thinking before Byfuglien drilled him with a big hit moments before scoring his club's sixth goal: "I saw him coming but at that point, I was committed to the shot...
"It's fun playing hard against guys you really know and trying to get the better of them. Buff and I are really good friends and it's fun to get under his skin and I'm sure he's going to do the same to me.
"Anytime you’re playing your former team, you want to come up with a good effort for sure," added Ladd. "You’ve got a little jump in your legs and there’s some excitement to it. I’m happy to have scored but the two points for us was a lot bigger than any of that."
The Jets announced earlier Saturday that forward Marko Dano will be sidelined for up to eight weeks with a lower-body injury suffered Thursday. Dano was placed on injured reserve.
The Jets recalled centre Andrew Copp from the AHL's Manitoba Moose and he was immediately inserted into the lineup.
Meanwhile, veteran defenceman Mark Stuart and forwards Chris Thorburn and Alex Burmistrov were healthy scratches.
The Jets are now 5-10-2 against Eastern Conference foes, including a 2-7-1 mark against Metropolitan Division clubs.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.