The Winnipeg Jets were clearly the best team on the ice Wednesday night.
They were also clear losers.
Despite outshooting the Anaheim Ducks 34-22 (12 of those shots came on the power play — a power play that didn’t click in five attempts) and despite controlling the puck for the most of the night, the Jets had no answer for Ducks goaltender John Gibson and fell 4-1 in the 2021-22 season opener for both teams.
For the first time since late February of 2020, the Jets played a National Hockey League game against an American-based team in a U.S. rink and while it was great to get back to some sort of normalcy, the alleged high-scoring Jets offence had no offensive punch at all.
Playing without leading scorer Mark Scheifele, who was serving the final game of his four-game suspension for charging Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans in the first game of the North Division final last spring, the Jets power play put on all sorts of pressure but simply couldn’t score. Scheifele’s absence affected every aspect of the Jets offence who outshot Anaheim 15-6 in the first period and yet trailed 2-0.
In fact, the Jets completely dominated the first seven minutes of the game and outshot Anaheim 7-1, but still fell behind 1-0 when the Ducks’ Kevin Shattenkirk beat Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck on Anaheim’s second shot of the game. The Jets had outshot the Ducks 11-2 when Anaheim’s Mason McTavish, the former U18 Team Canada star, scored his first NHL goal.
It was hard too imagine the Jets went to the break down 2-0 when they owned the puck for most of the period.
In the second period, Kyle Connor scored Winnipeg’s first goal of the season at from Blake Wheeler and Paul Stastny to make it 2-1, but the Ducks scored a power play goal at 13:20 of the period as Adam Henrique beat a shaky Hellbuyck to make it 3-1.
Anaheim stretched its advantage to 4-1 at the 6:20 mark of the third period when Rickard Rakell scored another power play goal and that was it.
Former first-round draft pick Cole Perfetti made his NHL debut for the Jets. The slight 19-year-old played nine minutes (to be fair, there was a lot of special teams time in his debut) and was a minus-one with no shots on goal and a hit.
Winnipeg outshot Anaheim 35-22, outhit them 25-17 and won 53 percent of the face-offs, but the Jets also went zero-for-five on the power play while Anaheim was two-for-five and that had a lot to do with the outcome. Between shaky goaltending and an inability to score, the Jets were never in this one after Henrique made it 3-1 in the second. It should also be noted that while the Jets outshot Anaheim 35-22, the Ducks also blocked 19 Winnipeg shots.
As well, Winnipeg lost all four games in which Scheifele was suspended. He’ll be back fort Saturday night’s game in San Jose but if the Jets don’t figure out a way to score, and soon, it’s going to be a long, long ugly season.