The Winnipeg Jets opened the month of March with a bang. And it wasn’t the kind of bang they were hoping for. After beginning the season 13-6-1 and owning an 8-3-1 record at Bell MTS Place, the home team struggled against the now 9-14-2 Vancouver Canucks on Monday, ultimately being shut out 4-0.
After losing two-straight games to Winnipeg just one week prior, the Canucks came out of the gates flying on Monday. Scoring three goals in a span of just 6:22 of the first period gave Vancouver a sizeable lead, proving to be too much for the Jets, with the home team unable to mount yet another comeback.
“That’s just the way the game goes sometimes,” said forward Mark Scheifele post-game. “Sometimes the bounces are going to go your way, sometimes they’re not and that’s where you can’t beat yourself up about it. You’ve got to keep playing. We had our chances to score. We’ve just got to capitalize and that’s about it.”
Lacking its typical sense of urgency after falling behind, Winnipeg was unable to collect its seventh win of the season after giving up the game’s opening goal. A dreadful first period saw Connor Hellebuyck and the Jets allow the visitors to strike three times – with all three goals against coming off of deflected pucks.
The Canucks’ first goal came off a play that saw Mason Appleton hurt himself blocking a Nate Schmidt point shot and falling out of the play. Schmidt reloaded and blasted another one-timer on net. It changed direction after deflecting off Andrew Copp’s stick, and fluttered past Hellebuyck with similar speed to that of a change-up pitch.
Just 18 seconds later, Schmidt capitalized again. With only 8:46 ticked off the clock, the Canucks’ big offseason acquisition gave them a two-goal lead. Yet another point shot found its way past Hellebuyck, this time by way of a J.T. Miller deflection. After the first puck beat the Jets’ tendy high, this one went low, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead.
Then, with Neal Pionk in the box for slashing Elias Pettersson, the Canucks’ scored their third marker of the period. Having killed 1:54 of the Pionk minor, the Jets were unable to get in front of a Tyler Myers long-range wrist shot. It deflected off the stick of Vancouver rookie Nils Hoglander and past Hellebuyck, giving the Canucks three goals on just five shots to begin the game.
The second set of 20 minutes was another forgettable period the Jets, and not much better for the Canucks. Neither Winnipeg nor Vancouver was able to muster up anything worthwhile of a high-danger scoring opportunity. Despite trailing by a field goal the Jets didn’t seem to apply much urgency, with the defencemen not rushing plays up ice, while the forward group was still attempting fancy neutral zone passing plays.
Typically boasting a strong push in terms of an offensive comeback during games in which the team has trailed so far this season, that effort was not visible in the middle stanza. The Jets gave up eight shots on net, while putting up just five shots through the period for a combined total of 15-12 for the visitors heading into the third.
Unable to get anything past Demko in the first 14:38 of the final frame, Jets head coach Paul Maurice opted to pull Hellebuyck for the extra attacker with 5:22 to go. He then aggressively put out five forwards and just one defenceman for an all-out attack. Despite their best efforts – including a Neal Pionk goalpost and a Thatcher Demko sprawling save on Kyle Connor – Winnipeg failed to capitalize on the late-game man advantage, with Elias Pettersson putting a puck into the empty net, sealing the deal with 3:34 to go.
“We just gotta change our mindset; that’s kind of what was missing a little bit,” captain Blake Wheeler said. “Obviously, their goals were what they were, and there’s not a lot that our goalie can do about that. He stopped the ones he could see, and obviously he’s going do that every single night. In that third period, I thought we changed our mindset a little bit. We got some pucks to the net and had some opportunities, but we just couldn’t get one early enough.”
Demko was sensational, stopping all 27 of Winnipeg’s shots and denying the team of a five-game winning streak. Hellebuyck, on the other hand, allowed three goals on 18 shots, seeing his record drop to 10-6-1 on the season.
“We know what we didn’t do well, we know what we did well,” Scheifele said. “You’ve got to have a short memory in this league. You can’t dwell on things too long, you’ve got to get a good sleep tonight and get ready for tomorrow.”
The two teams will be right back at it on Tuesday evening, as the Jets once again play host to the Canucks from Bell MTS Place in another 7:00 PM central start. Tuesday’s game will be one of just three home games within the club’s next 15 games. Following the rematch with Vancouver, Winnipeg will travel east for a five-game set between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, with games beginning on Thursday evening.