Despite half a dozen glorious scoring opportunities in the dying minutes of the third period, the Winnipeg Jets couldn’t make up for two glaring third-period defensive errors.
A goal by San Jose’s Melker Karlsson at the 5:18 mark of the third and then another by Timo Meier at 6:47 pulled the Sharks back from a 2-1 deficit after two periods to beat the Jets 3-2 in what was a heartbreaking loss for Winnipeg at Bell MTS Place on Friday night.
Jets defensemen Tucker Poolman and Dmitry Kulikov were caught off guard and out of position on both goals as the Jets lost a game they should have won. The Jets had points in five of their past six games (4-1-1) against the Sharks and were favourites on Friday night.
However, they had absolutely no jump in the first period, played a solid period of dump-and-no-chase and were outshot 13-3. They also trailed 1-0 after the first 20 minutes on a controversial San Jose goal.
With the puck under the pad of Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, San Jose’s Dylan Gambrel pushed the left pad of Hellebuyck off the goal line and into the net. The officials must have believed that Hellebuyck had time to reset his position before Marcus Sorensen snuck the puck though the goalie’s pads. It was obvious goalie interference so the Jets challenged. To no avail, however. The goal was allowed and a delay of game minor was assessed to the Jets.
To the Jets credit, they cam back in the second period to take the lead.
Kyle Connor scored a highlight reel at 8:21 to tie it, pulling the puck between his legs and flipping it up over the shoulder of San Jose net minder Aaron Dell. Then, at 9:47, Blake Wheeler scored on a blistering wrist shot to make it 2-1.
But then, the Jets collapsed in the third and fell to 29-25-5 on the season. Sadly, the Jets might have salvaged at least a point, but with only seconds remaining Connor hit the post with a bouncing puck (he couldn’t get a solid whack at it) as he gazed at a wide open San Jose net.
What made Friday’s loss even more difficult to stomach was the fact that this was the fourth game of an important six-game homestand. The Jets are now 2-2-0 on the homestand after a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday night and Friday night’s 3-2 loss to San Jose. Now, with two losses in a row, the Jets are again struggling to reach the eighth spot (and last playoff spot) in the West.
In the end, San Jose outshot Winnipeg 35-32 even though the Jets outshot San Jose 18-11 in the third. The Jets won 53 per cent of ethnic face-offs, but were outhit 18-16. San Jose blocked 17 shots to the Jets four. Wheeler and the best line for the Jets: He was plus-one with a goal and an assist, four shots on goal, 67 per cent of face-offs won in 19 minutes and 42 seconds of total ice time.
The Jets finish the homestand with games against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday and Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Sunday’s game will face-off at the rare time of 7:30 p.m.