Sometimes you just have to wonder if a hockey team really believes in itself. Then you also have to question the people who put the team together. Is it actually good enough to compete? Sometimes you have to wonder.
On Thursday night at MTS Centre, the Winnipeg Jets had a 2-1 lead with less than six minutes to play and the proverbial roof fell in. In a game marred by dumb penalties, bad passes, missed opportunities and sloppy defensive play, the Toronto Maple Leafs held up just a little longer than the Jets.
In fact, following a marginal holding penalty to Winnipeg’s Alex Ponikarovski with 4:36 remaining in the third, Phill Kessel took a pass from Tyler Bozak and fired a goal-scorer’s wrist shot from the top of the circle over Ondrej Pavelec’s shoulder. With the game winner, the Leafs prevailed 3-2 and the Jets fell to e-5-1 on the season.
It was a terrible loss for the Jets in what really was a terrible hockey game.
“We had it and then we let that game get away,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. We just played poorly, not everybody, but enough of us played poorly enough to lose.
“I thought we were a little bit tentative with about eight minutes to go in the game, we were almost sitting back on our heels rather than putting on pressure. We struggled a bit in our zone, even against their fourth line.”
“That was a big win for us,” said Winnipeg product Colton Orr, who made a big play late in the game that might have turned the entire outcome around. “We’ve been playing well and yet we haven’t always been rewarded. Tonight we hung in there, kept working hard and this time that hard work was rewarded.”
Orr, another Winnipegger, Frazer McLaren and rookie Leo Komarov, played on the Leafs energy line and right before Matt Frattin scored the game-tying goal at 14:58 of the third (yes the Leafs scored twice within 54 seconds to win it), they took over the hockey game.
“That line gave us the spark we needed,” said Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle. “They got the puck deep and did some great cycling. They slowed down Winnipeg and took control of the play. It really made a huge difference for us.”
Rookie Winnipeg defenseman Zach Redmond scored his first career NHL goal, while the Jets were shorthanded, to give Winnipeg a 1-0 lead early in the second period, but Tyler Bozak came right back, only minutes later with the Leafs a man short to tie it.
Andrew Ladd tipped home a shot from Grant Clitsome at 3:46 of the third period to give the Jets the 2-1 advantage. It lasted another 11 minutes but that was it.
The Jets fly to Ottawa first thing Friday morning to prepare for their game with the Senators on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. CST on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.
Next week, the Jets play host to Philadelphia on Tuesday, Pittsburgh on Friday and Boston next Sunday.