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This article was published 17/1/2020 (287 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
You snooze, you lose. And the sleepy Winnipeg Jets got what they deserved Friday night, turning in a dreadful effort against what should have been a tired opponent.
The result was a 7-1 rout at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bell MTS Place, their seventh defeat in the past eight home games. It was a sloppy, head-scratching follow-up to a relatively neat and tidy 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night that finally stopped the bleeding at the downtown rink.
"Nobody was any good tonight. Coach included," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said in his post-game availability.
A solid sound bite. But how about some actual substance in terms of what went wrong, especially for the soldout crowd that paid good money to watch such a putrid performance?
"I don’t have an explanation for you. I think we were moving right and then got to 2-0 and now we’re waiting for the puck to come to us. That’s the best explanation I can give you. I don’t know," said Maurice.
Winnipeg falls to 25-19-4, blowing a chance to jump back into a Western Conference playoff spot and looking nothing at all like an actual contender for anything but a top draft pick. Tampa improves to 29-15-4.
"When this team’s had success, it’s looked a certain way. We’ve had to battle extremely hard to get to a certain point. You know, it could be just losing sight of some of those little details, but I feel like the mindset’s right. It feels like the effort’s there, it feels like the mentality’s there, it feels like we’re connected on the ice. But with all that being said, at the end of the day, 7-1 at home, that’s not going to get the job done. There’s definitely some things to figure out," said captain Blake Wheeler.
You’d think the well-rested Jets would have been ready to pounce on a Lightning club that played 24 hours earlier in St. Paul, falling 3-2 to the Minnesota Wild. You’d be wrong.
The visitors scored early and often, taking a 3-0 lead before the first intermission and increasing that to 5-0 just past the midway mark. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who had no help from his teammates, was chased after giving up five goals on 12 shots. Laurent Brossoit mopped up, giving up two goals on 14 shots.
You can’t pin this one on a single player, line or defence pairing. There was plenty of blame to go around, with the Jets seemingly all infected by the same malaise.
"It’s tough to say. We thought we came out right. Had a few good chances early. They turned it around and buried a few on us. It just went downhill from there," said centre Mark Scheifele. "It’s a good hockey league. It’s tough to get wins. You’ve got to be on the ball for 60 minutes. When you come up against a good team like Tampa, you’ve got to be on your toes at all times."
Anthony Cirelli opened the scoring at 9:27 of the first period, taking a drop pass from Ondrej Palat and blasting a shot past Hellebuyck. The Jets essentially collapsed in front of their net and left Cirelli wide open. That would become a recurring theme.
Then came an egregious giveaway from Jets forward Andrew Copp that handed Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov a two-on-none. That went about how you’d expect, with the two stars exchanging passes before Kucherov finished it off at 12:21.
Cirelli struck again at 19:07, blowing by a seemingly uninterested Scheifele to get open on the rush, take a feed from Palat and beat Hellebuyck once again.
If Maurice read his troops the riot act during the intermission, it didn’t work. Kucherov scored his second of the game at 7:21, and then Carter Verhaeghe ended Hellebuyck’s night at 11:10 of the middle frame when he scored on a shot the No. 1 netminder would surely want back.
"We are just not defensively competitive enough in that game to win. We gave up six shots in the first and three ended up in the back of the net. First, third, fourth, fifth goal, we should be fairly even strength at times in those plays. And they either outskated us or beat us to the net hard," said Maurice.
"First goal we’re there. Third one as well we’ve got body position. Fourth one and the fifth one, we’ve got to win those battles. It’s not about how many goals you score in this league. It’s the final score that matters."
Jack Roslovic gave the crowd something to finally cheer about when he scored his ninth of the year 34 seconds later, finishing off a nice pass from Mathieu Perreault.
Cirelli, who began the night with nine goals on the season, finished off his first NHL hat trick at 7:48 of the third period, once again on an odd-man rush. He actually banked the puck in off the stick of Jets defenceman Dmitry Kulikov. And then Alex Killorn got in on the scoring party, converting the touchdown at 10:45 to make it even more of a laugher.
Nikolaj Ehlers looked to have scored a second goal for Winnipeg, but officials ruled Nick Shore interfered with Lightning starter Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Jets could have challenged — and may have had a strong case that Shore was shoved into the goalie — but Maurice opted not to.
"Because it’s a 7-1 game and I’ve got very little faith that it’s going to go my way. You’ve got to overturn those. And the last thing we need is another guy breaking another bone killing a penalty (if the challenge was unsuccessful) at the end of a 7-1 game and I don’t give a rat’s ass that we made it 7-2," said Maurice.
Vasilevskiy stopped 30 shots.
Scheifele, Kyle Connor and Luca Sbisa all finished the night minus-four, while Patrik Laine and Anthony Bitetto were minus-three. Great scores on the golf course. Dreadful numbers when you’re talking plus/minus in a hockey game.
"We’ll look at it on video, wash that one off and get ready for Chicago. It’s out of our control now. We had a stinker, and we’ve got to move on," said Scheifele.
Winnipeg now hits the road for three straight games heading into next weekend’s all-star break. They begin Sunday in Chicago, followed by stops Tuesday in Carolina and Wednesday in Columbus.
"You never want to have a crappy one like that. We know we have a big game, we know we only have one day in between, we’ve got to get ready for a big Central Division matchup. We’ve got to fix what didn’t go well, go over it on video, have a hard practice (today) and prepare for another tough one."