In a season filled with plenty of ups and downs, the Winnipeg Jets hit a new low Monday night.
After stopping the bleeding of a five-game losing streak with a gutsy road win over the high-flying Calgary Flames Saturday night, the Jets returned to their losing ways, falling 1-0 to the lowly Arizona Coyotes in front of 14,129 at Canada Life Centre.
The Jets, who dropped to 10-8-4, have now lost six of their last seven games and sit third place in the Central Division, five points behind the Minnesota Wild for top spot and with plenty of teams nipping at their heels. The Coyotes snapped a two-game losing streak with the win, which was just their fifth through 22 games (5-15-2).
"There are going to be games this year where we play much worse than that where we win. I don’t know if I’ve been a part of a game where you outshoot a team by 30 in the NHL," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. "Credit to them, they got in shot lanes, they sold out, their goalie played well. We just played eight games in eight different time zones. I think it was the biggest bulk of our schedule. Not to make excuses, but we're not getting the doors blown off by any means."
The Jets certainly outplayed the Coyotes for long stretches of the game, limiting Arizona to just 15 shots while registering 46 at the other end. Up to the tall task was Coyotes goaltender Karel Vejmelka, who entered the game with a record of 1-9-1 in 11 starts, with a 3.06 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.
The 25-year-old earned his first shutout in what was just his 13th career NHL game. He used every inch of his 6-foot-3, 224-pound frame to stymie the Jets. Connor Hellebuyck had a quiet night in Winnipeg's net, finishing with 14 saves and facing just three shots in the final 20 minutes.
While plenty will sting for the Jets in this one, nothing will hurt more than going 0-for-6 on the power play, with five of those trips to the man-advantage coming in the third period. The Jets had eight minutes of power play in the late stages of the game, including a double minor for high-sticking by Kyle Capobianco with just more than five minutes remaining in the final frame.
Winnipeg entered the night 2-for-28 on the power play, a stretch dating back 11 games, to a 2-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Nov. 6. The Jets are now 2-for-34 in the past 12 games after being shut out by the Coyotes, falling from the third ranked power play to the 21st, with a success rate of just 16.9 per cent.
"It's the same as our 5-on-5 game, scoring. You know, just confidence comes back into your game," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "Everything happens a little quicker, gets off your stick a little quicker, decisions happen. It’s a little easier for us. It’s a little tight out there for sure on it right now."
While the Jets were able to get 46 shots to the net, they also had 16 shots blocked and another 12 missed the target. Kyle Connor, Winnipeg's leading scorer, had several quality scoring chances; so, too, did Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mark Scheifele. Adam Lowry missed an open net and Nikolaj Ehlers hit two posts.
"Every team goes through it. It doesn't matter if it's early in the season, middle or late in the season. You might go through it a couple of times," Jets forward Paul Stastny said.
"But you don't want that cheat in the game and you don't want guys to quit on each other. I think we're not doing that and staying focused on the task at hand. I've only played the last three games, but before that, the last eight games were kind of a difficult schedule for us, travel-wise, a lot of games in a short amount of days. We'll get a bit of rest here the next couple of days, recover a little bit, and then be ready for Friday against New Jersey."
Antoine Roussel was the lone goal scorer, snapping a scoreless game with 2:01 remaining in the second period. It was his third of the season and second in as many games.
The play was set up by an Ehlers giveaway in the neutral zone, which was picked up by Loui Eriksson. Erikson then drove up the right boards and shoveled a backhanded pass towards the net, finding the stick of Roussel. Roussel managed to sneak in behind the Jets defence, beating Nate Schmidt to the puck to redirect it just over the blocker of Hellebuyck for the 1-0 lead.
"They're not an aggressive team. They're gonna wait for some chances, a turnover in the second period, and wait for their chances. They played hard, they played to what they had, and they gave their goalie a chance and he was good," Maurice said.
"I'm done with this one. Done with it. They're getting the day off tomorrow. I'm going to see what we have for triage the next day, but we got to get the team rested and back and ready to go."
The Jets have three days off before playing the second of a four-game home stand, with the New Jersey Devils coming to town Friday night. Puck drop is 7 p.m.
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.