In a meaningless game, at least as far as the standings were concerned, the Winnipeg Jets finished the 2022-23 National Hockey League season with a whimper.
Despite the fact, they led 2-1 at one point in the second period, the Jets didn’t have enough firepower or even will to beat the Stanley Cup-contending Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. The Jets were beaten 4-2 in Denver by a better team.
However, to be fair, the Jets played without Connor Hellebuyck, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nikolaj Ehlers, Nate Schmidt and Josh Morrissey and when you play without seven of your best players — and two of your three top offensive defencemen — it’s no wonder the Jets lost to a team as talented as Colorado. Of their Top 10 players, only Kyle Connor, Nino Neiderreiter and Neal Pionk suited up against the Avalanche.
Mikko Rantanen scored his 55th goal of the season, as the Avs kept pace in the race for first place in the Central Division. Colorado trails the Dallas Stars by one point in the battle for the Central crown, but can win the division with a win at Nashville tomorrow night.
On the other hand, the Jets fell to 46-33-3 on the season and will now have four or five days to prepare for their first-round playoff opponent, still likely to be the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Jets finished the season on a solid run, going 5-2-0 down the stretch to make the playoffs. Thursday night’s game in Denver was a chance to give the top players a rest and give some of the practice players — and one solid Moose — a chance to play.
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Kevin Stenlund each scored their sixth goals of the season — Stenlund’s was shorthanded — as the Jets actually led 2-1 at the 14:59 mark of the season period. But Rantanen scored on the power play at 16:11 and then Evan Rodrigues tallied the eventual winner at 3:01 of the third. Arrturi Lehkonen scored at 18:31 into an empty net to put it away.
The Jets were zero-for-three on the power play while Colorado was one-for-three. The Avs also missed on a penalty shot. Colorado outshot Winnipeg 25-20 as Alexander Georgiev made 18 saves to get the win. David Rittich, who let in a weak goal by Rodrigues to take the loss, made 22 saves.
The Avalanche are now 50-24-7 this season and have gone 6-0-1 in their past seven games.
The Jets will now wait to see which team, on which day and at which time, they’ll face in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
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