Here’s an obvious fact that every hockey fan knows. Penalty killing is an important aspect of the game. This point is not just obvious, but rather unnecessary to mention to NHL teams who kind of know this little fact. Well the Winnipeg Jets didn’t receive this memo. On Tuesday night, the Jets gave up two power play goals in a 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Tonight, before a sparse crowd at the BB&T Centre in Sunrise, the Jets surrendered three goals on six opportunities in a 6-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.
The win ended a 5 game losing streak for the Panthers, while the Jets lost their second straight. While the Panthers power play was dynamic, the Jets power play was woeful, going 0 for 3 with the man advantage. This included a 45 second two-man advantage in which the Jets didn’t register a shot on goal during that time.
There are no excuses for this effort. Sure some fans will point to the absence of Dustin Byfuglien, who missed the game due to a lower body injury. Big Buff is listed as day-to-day and is still with the team on this road trip. While Byfuglien as been the best Jet this season, the rest of the team does need to step up their game. Especially when they were playing a division rival, who was struggling mightily. Instead of pouncing on the wounded Cats, the Jets came out with a lacklustre effort that won’t make coach Claude Noel happy. In fact, his post-game news conference might be more entertaining than the game. The Panthers do deserve credit though. They played like a desperate team tonight, and deserved the two points.
After a scoreless first period, the Panthers opened the scoring just over five minutes into the second, as Brian Campbell capitalized on a two-man advantage. The Jets equalized late in the second, as Grant Clitsome blistered home his first goal of the season.
The third was wild and woolly as both teams exchanged goals and defensive lapses. Olli Jokinen gave the Jets the lead at the 1:23 mark of the final frame with his second of the season. The Panthers answered back 2:12 later, as Jet killer Kris Versteeg notched home his first of the season. Versteeg was playing in his second game of the season, after off-season hip surgery. The Jets regained the lead four minutes later as Tobias Enstrom fired home his first of the year. However the turning point of the game happened when Alexei Ponikarovsky took a tripping penalty midway through the period. The Panthers capitalized as Ondrej Pavelec couldn’t handle Filip Kuba’s point shot. Peter Mueller was there to clean up the garbage to register his third goal in three game. The Panthers took the lead for good, after a dumb Jokinen penalty, in which Alexei Kovalev fired home a wrister that Pavelec only got a piece of. Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau scored his second of the year off a two-on-one that somehow went off Enstrom and found the back of the net. Tomas Kopecky sealed the deal with an empty netter.
The Jets must improve on their 68.8% success rate while shorthanded. This simply won’t do. It also has to be said that it is time for Ondrej Pavelec to steal a game. So far this season, Pavelec has only been OK. While the Czech netminder was very good in the first two periods, he was very shaky in the third. Yes, the team in front of him wasn’t very good, but with parity a reality in the NHL, it often comes down to who has better goaltending. Pavelec needs to step up his game if the Jets have any shot at making the playoffs.
Blake Wheeler recorded an assist on the Jokinen goal, to stretch his point streak to five games. Zach Redmond played in his first NHL game tonight, thanks to the Byfuglien injury. Mark Scheifele remains a healthy scratch, and management undecided on whether to return the World Junior star to Barrie of the OHL. The Jets next game is Friday night in Tampa Bay.
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