Heartbreak, again. After falling in the game’s final second to Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers back on January 24 at home, the Winnipeg Jets have seemingly done it again, this time to the league’s worst Ottawa Senators.
The Jets and Sens faced off at home on Saturday in the second of two-straight matchups between the North Division rivals. The 2:00 PM matinee was the final game at Bell MTS Place before Winnipeg begins a stretch in which the team plays 16 of its next 22 games as the visitor.
Although coming off a 5-1 victory over the bottom-place Sens just two days prior, Saturday’s game was much closer. A near-identical shot total was matched by a near-identical goal total, with Ottawa narrowly squeezing out the victory by way of Brady Tkachuk game-winner with just 8.2 seconds remaining.
Entering the game having won three-straight at home and four-in-a-row against the Senators, Jets forward Mark Scheifele came in riding a five-game point-scoring streak (two goals, seven points). Following an injury suffered by Ottawa backstop Matt Murray on Thursday, Marcus Hogberg got the nod in the Senators’ net.
After dealing with a lower-body injury this past week, newly-acquired Jets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois was held out of Saturday’s game as he continued to feel discomfort Saturday morning. With that news, head coach Paul Maurice opted to once again go with 11 forwards and seven defencemen. Kristian Vesalainen drew into the lineup, with the forward lines seeing some minimal reshuffling.
Beginning the game with a 6-2 shot lead and 10 more shot attempts than their opponents, the Jets slowed down as the period progressed, allowing Ottawa to test Connor Hellebuyck with some quality rubber, evening the shots at eight-all through 20 minutes. Neither team managed much in terms of quality scoring chances, with the Jets owning slightly more puck possession than the visitors.
The second period saw the teams exchange goals, with Mark Scheifele and Evgenii Dadonov put their respective teams on the board. Just 5:43 into the frame, Scheifele collected his sixth goal of the season off a strong drive and netfront pass by Kristian Vesalainen. The assist was the Finnish winger’s first point since October of 2018. Dadonov, however, tied the game just 1:44 later, putting the finishing touches on his sixth tally of the season, assisted by Nick Paul and Colin White.
The second period was also close in the shot department, with the visitors picking up 12 more shots in the frame, compared to the 11 earned by Winnipeg. Ottawa led 20-19 through 40 minutes of play in the tie game.
The Jets turned up the dial in the third period, finally pulling ahead of the Senators on the shot chart in the final moments of the period. The best chance of the stanza came on yet another Neal Pionk attempted wraparound, with the blueliner opting for the backhand chance this time around.
But with 8.2 seconds remaining, disaster struck, as Brady Tkachuk redirected a Mike Reilly point shot past the Jets netminder and into the net behind, fully deflating the Jets of any potential late-game heroics.
Despite allowing the late game-winner, Connor Hellebuyck finished the game with 27 saves on 29 Ottawa shots. On the other end of the ice, Marcus Hogberg turned aside 30 of Winnipeg’s 31 shots on net. With the loss, Hellebuyck’s record dropped to 6-4-0 on the season. The Jets saw their record fall to 8-5-1 through the quarter mark of the season.
Next up for Winnipeg is a four-game trip out west, as the Jets face off against the Edmonton Oilers twice, before travelling further yet to Vancouver for two matchups with the Canucks. Having already played every second day since last Tuesday, Winnipeg will continue that trend with games on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Monday’s contest against the Oilers is set for 8:00 PM centreal, while the remaining three games will begin at 9:00 PM. All four games can be viewed live on TSN.