Granted, the Winnipeg Jets are playing without their best goal scorer, an outstanding young star and one of their steadiest, most offensive-minded defensemen.
Still, you’d think they’d play with a little more urgency.
On Saturday night at Canada Life Centre, the Jets watched their playoff light go almost completely dark, losing 3-2 to the visiting Los Angeles Kings. The Jets got off to a terrible start, went zero-for-six on the power play, gave up a shorthanded goal and never really had that many good scoring chances, as they fell to 33-27-10 on the season and now, with 12 games remaining, probably need to run the table in order to reach the post-season. They’ve lost two in a row and they are running out of time.
Sure, the Jets were playing without leading scorer Kyle Connor, defensive star Nate Schmidt (both in COVID protocol) and Cole Perfetti (upper-body injury), but at this stage of the season, there are no excuses. The Jets need to win and they have to play with more hustle and desire, especially with a man-advantage. That power play is horrible.
As a result, on Saturday night, in front of their own fans, they suffered a gut-wrenching loss.
The Jets opened the game like a team that had no desire to be out after 6 p.m. They seemed uninterested and had absolutely no jump whatsoever.
They fell behind 1-0 at the 2:21 mark when the Kings’ Adrian Kempe scored his 29th of the season, shorthanded, by kicking a rebound under the leg of Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
However, Nikolaj Ehlers tied it on a partial breakaway at 6:24 after taking a great pass from Mark Scheifele. It was Ehlers 22nd goal and Scheifele’s 39th assist.
However, the Jets had been outshot 8-1 through the first six minutes and were being outshot 10-2 when Ehlers scored. It didn’t get any better.
The Kings took a 2-1 lead when the Jets turned their own end into a clown show. There were more prize giveaways than at a kid’s birthday party. Eventually, veteran Anze Kopitar found a loose puck and a wide-open net and at 10:32, the Kings appeared to be in complete control.
Los Angeles outshot Winnipeg 19-6 in the opening period and the Jets were just as horrible as that statistic might indicate. They lost most battles for the puck, officially had six giveaways to L.A.’s one and seldom, if ever, got the puck out of their own end.
Sadly, it didn’t get any better in the second period.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler took a cheap, chintzy penalty and the Kings capitalized at 3:05 when Jordan Spence banged home a rebound to make it 3-1. At that point, Winnipeg had been outshot 25-7 (6-1 in the second period). For a team claiming to understand that it was still in the playoff hunt, you wouldn’t know it by watching them play.
The Jets did cut the Kings’ lead to 3-2 at 13:31 of the second when Adam Lowry knocked a loose puck behind Kings netminder Cal Petersen. Ville Heinola and Neal Pionk drew the assists on Lowry’s 11th goal of the year.
That goal set a bit of a fire under the Jets — albeit temporarily — and Winnipeg ended up outshooting L.A. 13-12 in the second period (L.A still led 31-19 in shots).
In the third period, the Jets dominated play, but they really didn’t dominate scoring chances. The Jets outshot the Kings 8-7 despite the fact, Winnipeg had the puck in L.A.’s zone for most of the period. The Kings blanket defence in their own end kept the Jets from getting too many clear shots at Petersen and in the end, Hellebuyck had to make more difficult saves than his Los Angeles counterpart.
In the end, L.A. outshot Winnipeg 38-27 while the Jets outhit L.A. 23-17 and won 55 per cent of the face-offs. The big difference was in special teams play. The Kings were one-for-three on the power play with a shorthanded goal while the Jets were zero-for-six and allowed the Kings’ opening, shorthanded goal. If the Jets don’t fix that power play next season, their future will not be very bright.
The Jets best stats line of the night belonged to Adam Lowry who had a goal, and was plus one with two shots, three hits and two blocked shots in just 16 minutes and five seconds of ice time.
The Jets will play again on Wednesday night when the Detroit Red Wings pay a visit to Canada Life Centre. Game time is 6:30 p.m. CDT.