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Jets Fall Short in Bid for Road Trip Sweep

Photo by Scott Stroh

Jets Fall Short in Bid for Road Trip Sweep

Tuesday night in Carolina was one of those games where the Winnipeg Jets could have used their best player.

Sidelined for the second-straight game with a lower-body injury, defenceman Josh Morrissey watched on as his mates fell 5-3 to the Hurricanes in a rather back-and-forth affair.

Although taking morning skate, Morrissey was unable to suit up for for warmup on Tuesday night, so Kyle Capobianco drew into the Jets’ lineup in his absence. Pierre-Luc Dubois also missed his sixth game of the past seven. But on the flip side of things, the Canes also skated without their top dog, as Andrei Svechnikov was shut down for the season earlier in the day with a major knee injury.

After Connor Hellebuyck picked up wins over the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning on back-to-back nights to open the three-game road trip, Jets’ head coach Rick Bowness turned to David Rittich, who has had himself one heck of a time trying to get to double digits in wins this season.

Tuesday’s game didn’t go in the Jets’ favour, despite a decent comeback attempt.

Nino Niederreiter extended his point streak to seven games with a late third period goal that brought the Jets back to one goal, but Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s second of the game into an empty net sealed the deal on a Carolina win, sending Winnipeg (38-27-3) back home with four of six points following a gnarly Eastern Conference road trip.

Jaccob Slavin scored the game’s opening tally, and only goal of the first period, on a strange bouncing play that saw a Brenden Dillon turnover ¬†bounce off Slavin’s stick and shinpad before lobbing itself over Rittich and into the net.

The Jets trailed 1-0 and had just six shots to Carolina’s 10 after 20 minutes of play.

But it took Winnipeg just 19 seconds to tie it up in the middle stanza. Moments after a questionable hip check from Dylan Samberg, Dylan DeMelo carried the puck up ice and fired his fourth of the season past Frederik Andersen, knotting the game at ones.

But the Hurricanes responded, and did so swiftly on Brady Skjei’s career-high 13th of the year. A Carolina face-off win led to a Brent Burns setup pass that gave Skjei just the angle he needed to put a writer through Rittich, restoring his team’s lead just 39 seconds after DeMelo’s period-opening strike.

Rittich then gave up a questionable one on a wraparound jamming style play, to which Kotkaniemi pounced on his 13th of the campaign.

Winnipeg did rally in the shot department, tying the totals at 17 through 40 minutes, but trailing 3-1 as the third period began.

Nikolaj Ehlers cut the deficit to one 4:27 into the frame, as he took a slick pass from Blake Wheeler and slid the disc five-hole past Andersen to make it 3-2.

But six minutes later a combination of Kevin Stenlund’s hard-to-handle pass and Neal Pionk’s bobble gave Jack Drury an easy insurance marker.

As it turned out, the Canes would need the insurance, as Niederreiter got his 22nd of the season and fourth as as Jet with 4:22 remaining. But a bonehead hooking call sent Wheeler to the box with just 2:52 left in the game.

Sadly, the officials did play a significant role in the outcome of the third period, as Mason Appleton earlier had a shorthanded two-on-one disrupted as a linesman got in his way, before Ehlers and Vladislav Namestnikov were each hauled down in a span of five seconds to no avail. Wheeler’s penalty was nothing worse than the perils those two Jets forwards faced just moments prior.

Kotkaniemi put the finishing touches on the 5-3 win with a long-range empty-netter with 3.7 seconds left on the clock, as his Hurricanes took both points on the night.

Rittich finished with 20 stops on 24 Carolina shots, while Andersen got the win with 21 saves.

Things do not get any easier for the Jets, as they return home to Canada Life Centre for a test with the league’s top team, the Boston Bruins, on Thursday evening. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM central time. The game can be viewed live on TSN.

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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