The Winnipeg Jets young stars got off to a slow start on Friday night, losing their tournament opener 4-2 to the Vancouver Canucks. The Jets fell behind 3-1 within the first 11 minutes, but got better as the game progressed, before giving up an empty netter with 14 seconds left to ice the game.
The Jets opened the scoring at the 2:18 mark of the 1st period. Mathieu Sevigny made a nice play to keep the puck in the offensive zone, before feeding it to the point for Antoine Crete-Belzile, whose snapshot eluded Canucks starting goalie Thatcher Demko.
After opening the scoring, the Jets struggled for the rest of the 1st period, and the Canucks would take advantage. After Mikhail Berdin took a penalty for playing the puck in the restricted area, the Canucks would take advantage on the power play after just 27 seconds. Jonah Gadjovich would finish off a down low 2 on 1 on a nice pass from Kole Lind to tie the game at 1.
The Canucks would take the lead at 7:03 of the 1st. After a faceoff win to the left of Berdin, Jalen Chatfield would snap a shot that beat the Jets goalie to give the Canucks the 2-1 lead. They would extend the lead at 10:27 of the 1st period, on a power play after Kody McDonald took a 5 minute major and game misconduct for a check to the head of Chatfield. On the ensuing power play, Lind would pick up his second assist of the period, setting up Griffen Molino for a one-timer from the faceoff circle to beat an outstretched Berdin.
The Jets found their footing in the second period, and would close the gap to 1. After a wonderful rush up the ice by Sami Niku, his drop pass intended for Skyler McKenzie was broken up, but fell right to Jansen Harkins, who snapped a shot blocker side on Demko.
The Jets had their chances in the third period, but could not break through to tie the game, and Lind would finish the game off into an empty net to seal a 4-2 Canucks win. The Jets were outshot in the game 39-20, and were 0-1 on the power play, while the Canucks were 2-3 on the man advantage.
Jets Top Players
D #83 Sami Niku
While a majority of the attention in this tournament is on Logan Stanley and Tucker Poolman on the Jets back end, Niku showed a strong ability to move the puck up from his own zone in this game. His rush up the ice set up the Jets second goal of the game, and he consistently made strong plays in his defensive zone to break up chances as well as start the breakout. His skating and playmaking ability reminded me of the way Erik Karlsson plays in Ottawa. It will be interesting to see if he can continue this level of play throughout the tournament and into main camp next week.
G #60 Mikhail Berdin
As good as Niku and Harkins were tonight, Berdin was the reason the Jets were able to stay in the game as long as they did. Berdin would finish with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 SV%), and a number of saves were high quality saves. Outside of the mistake he made playing the puck in the restricted zone in the first period, he was positionally solid, making saves look routine. Berdin may be 6th on the Jets depth chart in goal at the moment, but if he continues to play as well as he did tonight, he could be climbing the depth chart before too long in Winnipeg.
15-5: The shot differential favouring Vancouver in the first period. The Jets did not have a shot on goal for a stretch of about 11 minutes after scoring the opening goal of the game, and Vancouver was able to take control of the game, forcing the Jets to play from behind.
The Jets are right back in action Saturday night, as they take on the Edmonton Oilers (9:30 PM CST, jets.nhl.com).