For awhile, the Winnipeg Jets were a team with a legitimate chance to do what the Vancouver Canucks did earlier this week. They had a chance to beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins at the TD Garden.
But even though the Jets had a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes, they were in big trouble. You could see it. Tanner Glass was injured in the first period when he suffered a huge, ugly gash on his face. Then, No. 2 defenseman Zach Bogosian suffered a "lower-body injury" (I love that terminology) in the second period and didn’t return and while the Jets refused to use the loss of a checker and maybe the team’s best defensive defenseman as an excuse, it was obvious that Bogosian’s absence, at least, was a blow to the team’s fortunes.
The under-manned Jets gave up three unanswered goals in the third period and lost 5-3 to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Eric Fehr, with his first goal of the season, scored for Winnipeg as the Jets fell to 6-11-4 on the road this season and 20-17-5 overall. They finished a four-game road trip with a record of 1-3-0 and the’ll limp back home in ninth place.
The First Goal of the Season for Eric Fehr
However, while the Jets were beaten by a better team, they did have a number of opportunities to give themselves a cushion in the first two periods. They missed at least four good scoring chances and they had plenty of power-play opportunities. Chris Thorburn had a penalty shot, but the fourth-line checker looked confused as he went in on Boston goalie Tuukka Rask and made a questionable decision on his shot. The line of Kyle Wellwood, Antti Mietinen and Eric Fehr played extremely well early in the game and goalie Ondrej Pavelec was engaged. All the signs pointed to an upset in the making after 40 minutes.
Then, the Jets missed a checking assigment off the opening faceoff of the third period and Nathan Horton scored his second of the night for the Bruins at the eight-second mark. At that point, the Jets bench sagged visibly and the visitors’ balloon burst.
"We have to find a way to overcome those things and battle through it and make smarter plays," said captain Andrew Ladd. "You know those guys (Glass and Bogosian) are gone but we should stay focused. You should be able to go out there and do what we have to do to win.
"The early goal (by Boston) in the third was huge. The first minute and last miniute of a period seem to be huge in terms of momentum. They scored early and took the momemtum away from us. We let it slip away. Unfortunately, we didn’t play our best in the third perod tonight."
The Jets were outshot 42-32 and outchanced 11-7 overall. the Bruins won 63 per cent of the faceoffs and controlled the puck for almost the entire third period as they oushot Winnipeg 22-8 in the final frame.
"Obviously that’s not the way you want to start the third period, giving up a goal eight seconds in," said defenseman Ron Hainsey. "Then they got the second one and the last thing you want to do is chase this team around in its own building when they have the lead. They’re playing as well as anybody in the league right now and if you get behind them in the third period, you’re going to be facing a very tough team. Things just got away from us in the third."
No kidding. Of course, the third period really pissed off head coach Claude Noel.
"It’s disappointing," said the Jets head coach on TSN Jets TV. "It was a disappinting game. You play well for 40 minutes and then you miss an assignemnt on the face off on the opening play of the third period and suddenly it’s frickin’ tied.
"The problem we faced in the third period was being demoralized on the opening shift. It was a simple assignment off the face-off. We missed the assignment, they started to play with more enthusiasm and that’s a tough team to play against when they start playing with a lot of emotion. When you have a solid team like they have and you’ve gone through the things they’ve gone through to win a Cup, then they have a confidence level that most other teams don’t have.
"But we have no excuses. Guys get hurt in this league all the time. You have to overcome it. We didn’t raise our level when we needed to. You have to find ways to get through things like this. It was disappointing for our players."
The game was particularly disappointing for young star Evander Kane. On the same day he ended up on The Dirty, a popular website that chronicles the follies of Winnipeg’s night/sex life (for lack of a better description), Kane was benched in the first period. In the end, the 21-year-old goal scoring winger played the better part of the third period, but early in the game, Noel was not happy.
"Either you’re going to play or you aren’t," Noel said angrily. "If you want to be a key player on our team, then get ready to play the game. I saw the first two shifts and I’d seen enough. If you aren’t going to show up to play the game, then sit there. If you don’t want to play, don’t play. I’m not going to wait for you to show up."
Kane and Noel have had a love-hate relationship all season. We’ll see if this latest spat turns out better than the outcome of Tuesday night’s game.
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Mark Stuart dances with Shawn Thornton
One of our regular readers, Fort Rouge Ted, sent me this e-mail last night. It might be worth a future discussion:
Scotty, why didn’t the Jets pick up hometown boy Colton Orr when the Leafs put him on waivers? That should have been a no-brainer. As long as the NHL is going to allow bare-knuckle fight among its combatants, you must use use it to your advantage as much as possible. It was plain to see they could have used Colton in Beantown. Someone needs to beat up those arrogant Bruin pricks. They were running at Pavy and having their way with the Jets and the officials were too gutless to make any calls. They needed somebody to settle everything down. I’ll tell youi this, Orr would have taken care of that asshole Shawn Thornton.
Fort Rouge Ted
We’ll discuss the concept, if not the expletives, later in the week.