A remarkable night for Florida’s Scott Clemmensen
The way things are going in the Southeast Division, with a couple more wins, the Winnipeg Jets just might jump from 10th to third in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
Of course, the Jets have to corral those wins first and it would help if they didn’t give away three goals.
Saturday night at the MTS Centre, the Jets skated the sluggish Florida Panthers right out the south exit, outshot them 44-23, and lost. That’s right. They lost. 4-3 in a seven-round shootout.
The Jets picked up a point and they’re still 10th in the Eastern Conference, but Saturday night Winnipeg had a chance to move within a point of the first-place Panthers and second-place Washington Capitals. However, because of three giveaways and a shootout loss, the Jets have 50 points, Washington has 52 and Florida now has 54.
Playing without the injured Dustin Byfuglien and Evander Kane (who suffered a concussion in "one of the games this week and came to the team on Friday morning," according to the club, even though Twitter lit up last night with some rumour of a fight at local Winnipeg watering hole) the Jets dominated a Panthers team that had lost 3-1 in Chicago on Friday night.
The 22-20-6 Jets are now 7-0-1 in home games against teams that had played in either Chicago or Minnesota the night before.
"We came out with a point which I think is important," said Nik Antropov who had a pair of goals. "It’s better to get one point than no points. We battled hard and we showed some character. We came back from 2-0 to tie it, made a big mistake to fall behind 3-2 and battled back to get the game to overtime. It was a tough loss, but at least we got a point."
There is little doubt the Jets were beaten by Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen. He made 41 saves during the game (including overtime) and stopped five of seven in the shootout. Interestingly, the geniuses who picked the three stars ignored the best player on the ice.
On the up side for Winnipeg, Zach Bogosian returned and was brilliant. He played 25 minutes and 19 seconds, set a personal record with nine shots on goal and had eight more shots blocked before they reached Clemmensen. He also had three hits and a blocked shot. Blake Wheeler played his second game since returning from that nasty throat injury and was very good once again. He played almost 23 minutes and had three shots and six hits.
The Jets were actually quite good last night. They just made three horrible mistakes and it cost them.
"I was really disappointed," said Noel. "We had clear possession of the puck in our own zone and served up three pizzas that ended up in the back of our net. We came back and tied the game so we’re not going to beat ourselves up.
"But you just can’t give the puck away to a good team. We gave them some great opportiunities. These were opportunities we gave them where we had full possession of the puck and not a lot of pressure. You can’t do that. We would have loved to get the two points in the shootout, but it was not to be. This was not a step back. You don’t take a step back everytime you lose or a step forward everytime you win. This was a game we would have liked to have won for obvious reasons.
"You just don’t draw up plays where you give three pucks away like that. Players don’t plan to do that either. We lose sleep over it. Still, three goals should have been enough to win this game. We haven’t given a team three opportunities like that this year. I don’t know why it happened. The players don’t either."
The Jets head out onto the road on Sunday and will play in Raleigh on Monday and in Manhattan on Tuesday before breaking for the All-Star Game. It obviously doesn’t get easier this week.
"We have a big road trip. The Rangers are on top of the conference and Carolina is trying to get into the playoffs," said Antropov. "It will be important for us. It’s been tough. We’re not getting a chance to practice enough. We’re just playing now and then traveling and having pre-game skates. It’s a hard time of the year."
True, but with a win on Saturday, it might not have felt so hard.