The Winnipeg Jets home woes continued on Saturday afternoon. This is a team that needs to play more games on the road. Thankfully, we guess, they have a three-game road trip starting on Monday in Manhattan.
Saturday afternoon at MTS Centre, Alexander Semin scored at 1:06 of the opening period and that set the stage for a 3-1 Jets loss to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes. The Jets had beaten Carolina in the first two meetings of the season, but once again the Jets struggled at home. This time a team that was 0-6-1 in their previous seven games came to Winnipeg and beat the Jets in front of 15,004 rabid MTS Centre fans.
The Jets are 18-16-2, still first in the Southeast Division (by four points over Carolina) and third in the Eastern Conference, but Winnipeg’s hockey team is a weak 8-9-0 in their own building.
“I don’t think we were able to take advantage of the momentum we had,” said head coach Claude Noel. “There were times when we killed those penalties and I thought we could pick up some momentum, but we didn’t. We gave up a goal on the first shift. We still had 59 minutes left to play the game. You can still win that game.
“Sometimes players look like 20 individuals. We didn’t look very organized. You try to help them out, but when you’re a player, you have to fix things by yourself. Nobody is more disappointed in that outcome than we are.”
The problem in this one was simple: Too many penalties at all the wrong times. Winnipeg had to kill off four minors in the second period and while they killed them all off, it didn’t help the Jets keep their lines together or get their offence going.
“I think in that second period we just were taking too many penalties,” said Jets centre Olli Jokinen, who scored Winnipeg’s only goal. “It’s too much to ask to have guys out there killing penalties every other shift. That was just too many penalties.”
In the end, the penalty kill was pretty good. Carolina went 0-for-six and twice they had brief two-man advantage situations, but the Jets penalty kill was flawless. However, Winnipeg went 0-for-3 on the power play themselves and that sure didn’t help.
“We had our chances five-on-five, but all the penalties kills the momentum,” said Jokinen. “It kills the flow with all the penalties. You can’t win the game if you play half a period a man short. This was a huge game for us. We wanted to put them eight points behind us, but we didn’t get it done so we have to regroup and try to stay positive an learn from it. We have two options. We can feel sorry for ourselves or we can learn. We’d better learn from this.”
The Jets outshot Carolina 35-28, but goals by Semin, Jussi Jokinen and Eric Staal were enough to put the Jets away. Winnipeg had plenty of good chances (they hit two posts), but it was a stone-handed afternoon for the home side. Meanwhile, the Jets did a lot of good things on Saturday. They outhit Carolina 29-22, but they also lost 61 per cent of the game’s faceoffs.
Now, Winnipeg has to gear up for a trip to the east coast. They’ll play in Manhattan on Monday, on Long Island on Tuesday and in Montreal on Thursday.
“We have been a decent road team,” said Jokinen. “We’ve played pretty well on the road. We just have to find a way to get two points in New York on Monday. We have to bounce back and get the job done.”
It’s the Jets-Rangers Monday night, 6 p.m. on TSN Jets TV.