The Detroit Red Wings came out ready to play on Tuesday night.
Sure, the game was held in their home rink, but the Wings – led by Moritz Seider (career-high four assists) had things going from the very get-go.
Scoring three quick goals on Michigan product Connor Hellebuyck, it appeared as though a rout was on in Motor City.
But hand it to the Jets’ offence, as the visitors stormed back not once, twice, or three times, but on four separate occasions in a game which they just couldn’t find a way to pull ahead.
Trailing 3-0, 4-1, 5-3 and 6-4 at various points throughout the contest, Winnipeg did not give up on the game, despite giving up significant scoring opportunities that the Red Wings – for the most part – capitalized on, cashing in six times on one of the league’s top goaltenders, in his home state no less.
“You can’t start like that and be climbing uphill the rest of the game,” defenceman Nate Schmidt said post-game. “You could feel it on the bench, too. We knew we hadn’t played our best game, but to still have a chance to still win, you’ll take it. Especially if you give up that many chances early.
Former Jets forward Andrew Copp found the stat sheet twice in the opening period on a pair of assists, while Mo Seider’s career game gave Detroit a huge boost offensively. Ville Husso stood his ground in goal for the home team even though the visitors bulged the twine on five occasions.
Sadly, for the Jets, the loss snapped Winnipeg’s longest winning streak in four years, while it also prevented head coach Rick Bowness from earning his way into his first career All-Star Game. But the 67-year-old likely won’t mind the extra time off as he’ll watch Dallas’ Peter DeBoer coach the Central Division representatives this February.
Neal Pionk bobbled a puck at the Jets’ offensive blueline, leading directly to a Red Wings goal, while Adam Lowry handed Detroit the puck perfectly on a five-on-three penalty kill, which also led to another tally for the home team. Those mistakes, paired with an off-night from Winnipeg’s tendy did not help the cause as the Jets fell 7-5 by way of an empty-net marker to the Red Wings at Little Caesar’s Arena.
“I think the story of tonight is more on our start and having to climb back,” forward Sam Gagner said. “We did a really good job of climbing back, but we shouldn’t put ourselves in that position.”
Winnipeg did outshoot Detroit, and heavily, as the visitors cashed in on five of their 38 shots on net. Hellebuyck made just 16 saves on the 22 pucks sent his way.
“He’s won us a lot of games this year; he’s going to win us some more,” coach Bowness said of Hellebuyck. “We could have scored enough goals to win that game tonight. Simple as that.”
The Jets got goals from Neal Pionk (7th), Sam Gagner (8th), Nate Schmidt (4th), Nikolaj Ehlers (2nd) and Mark Scheifele (24th) on the night, but their five goals weren’t enough, as Detroit’s seven markers sent Winnipeg packing in what turned out to be a tough streak snapper.
“We’ve just relied on Helle to be so good for us,” Schmidt added. “Maybe that slips away or it just starts to slide a little bit and you make it a little bit harder for yourself when you dig yourself a 3-0 deficit in the first 10 minutes of the game.”
The Jets will now travel to Buffalo where they will play a two-game-in-two-night set with the Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday and Friday before returning home to Canada Life Centre on Sunday for a Central Division showdown with the Arizona Coyotes. All three games will begin at 6:00 PM central time.