The Winnipeg Jets travelled to Boston on Saturday for an afternoon matinee contest with the red-hot Bruins in the team’s seventh of a season-high eight-game road trip. Although getting the first goal and jumping ahead to two separate leads in the game, the Jets found a way to cough up the advantage.
Failing to score on each of its four power play opportunities, while allowing the game-winner on a third-period Bruins man advantage, Winnipeg’s special teams were the main culprit on Saturday.
Losing forward Nikolaj Ehlers to a knee injury on Tuesday in Washington, the team did regain captain Blake Wheeler, who returned to the lineup following a nine-game absence due to a knee injury of his own.
Winnipeg’s leader was thrown right into action in the opening period, skating in eight minutes of ice time (21:39 game total). Although partially due to two wingers serving five-minute fighting majors, Wheeler appeared back in full health for a matchup with a Bruins team that has gone 8-2-0 in its past 10 games.
Adding to Boston’s current streak of strong play, is the fact that Winnipeg is just 2-12-4 in its last 18 visits to TD Garden, while posting a horrific -24 goal differential.
After finding themselves down three goals early in Nashville on Thursday, the Jets rebounded rather quickly with an early strike on Saturday, however. Taking the puck into the offensive zone was Dominic Toninato. He dropped it to linemate Jansen Harkins, who stepped up and put a wrist shot through the armpit of Tuukka Rask, handing Winnipeg a 1-0 lead on the team’s first shot of the game, just 2:46 in.
Scoring his fourth of the season on his first shift of the game, Harkins then found himself in the penalty box for five minutes after throwing down in a spirited tilt with Connor Clifton. Owning two-thirds of a Gordie Howe Hat-trick just five minutes into the game Harkins and the Jets weren’t quite done there.
Pierre-Luc Dubois threw a punishing check that sent Matt Grzelcyk to the dressing room for repairs, before Austin Poganski and Brandon Carlo squared off in yet another fight. Both teams also managed to get goals before the period came to a close.
First it was the Bruins, who tied the game 11:37 in, with Oskar Steen hammering home a rebound off a Charlie Coyle shot on a scramble play. The teams remained deadlocked at ones until the final minute, where the Blake Wheeler-Mark Scheifele-Andrew Copp line struck very late in the frame.
Carrying the puck up ice was Copp, who dished off to his centreman. Scheifele sent a cross-ice pass to Wheeler, but the puck never made it to his captain. It deflected off the left skate of the net-driving Copp, and skirted past Tuukka Rask for Copp’s 11th of the season. The goal came with just 25.5 seconds left in the game and on Winnipeg’s 11th shot of the frame.
They outshot the Bruins 11-4 through 20 minutes, but the second period was a very different story. It actually took the jets a full 10 minutes to get their first shot, to which the team had to battle back after giving up 11 shots to Boston midway through the frame. Amongst those shots was a deflection goal from Coyle off a long-range point shot from former Jets defencemen Derek Forbort.
Coyle’s ninth of the season at 2:31 of the second period held up as the only goal of the frame, sending the two teams to the final frame knotted at twos, with Boston holding a slight 20-17 shot advantage.
The most eventful piece of the action came on a play that saw Jets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois drive Charlie Coyle through the glass in a heavy collision in the Jets’ end of the ice. But with the ice crew on site, a quick repair saw the game lose little momentum following the equipment malfunction.
The Bruins found the net on a nice passing play on an early-period man advantage. With Adam Lowry in the box for tripping Coyle, David Pastrnak hammered his 19th of the year past Connor Hellebuyck on a cross-ice one-timer. The goal put Boston ahead 3-2, a lead to which it would maintain as the seconds ticked down in the period.
Despite the Bruins taking their fourth minor penalty of the game late in the third, Winnipeg’s power play was not up for the task, even with Hellebuyck on the bench for an extra attacker. Putting up just one shot in the team’s previous three man advantages, the Jets didn’t do much better with the abbreviated 1:27 of six-on-four action. Boston, on the other hand, got its fourth game-winner of the season from Pastrnak, which just so happened to come on the power play.
Hellebuyck finished the game with just 29 stops on 32 Bruins shots and saw his record fall to 14-12-5 on the season. Rask, who was making just his third start of the year, picked up his second win, turning aside 22 of the 24 pucks he faced.
Winnipeg will look to snap its three-game losing streak on Sunday afternoon as it makes a quick turnaround and heads to Pittsburgh for another matinee game with the Penguins. The 12:00 PM central showdown concludes the team’s eight-game road trip. It can be viewed live on TSN.