With 20 minutes to go in the regular season for the Winnipeg Jets, the season had already ended.
In Washington, the Ottawa Senators beat the Capitals 2-1 in overtime while in Raleigh, N.C., the New York Rangers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in overtime. Victories by the Sens and Rangers meant that the Jets no longer had a chance to make the playoffs and in the third period against Montreal at MTS Centre, it showed.
Brendan Gallagher, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty scored unanswered goals in the third period to lead the Montreal Canadiens to a 4-2 come-from-behind win over the Jets.
Although, to be fair, it was hard to criticize Winnipeg. The Jets had played tremendously well down the stretch, grabbing 14 of a possible 16 points in their previous eight games. However, the Jets got no help in the race and Ottawa and the Rangers were able to clinch playoff berths before the Jets got to finish the season against Montreal.
James Wright opened the scoring for Winnipeg with a beautiful goal at 9:10 of the first period. Rene Bourque tied the game for Montreal at 9:54 of the second period, but then Blake Wheeler, who had a number of great chances to score and blow the game wide open, finally got a goal at 14:43 of the second frame to give the Jets a 2-1 lead.
But between periods, the Jets learned the Ottawa and New York had each won on the road in OT and there was nothing left in the tank in the third period.
Lars Eller ad P.K. Subban each finished with two assists for Montreal. Carey Price had to make only 23 saves to get the win. Ondrej Pavelec made 26 saves in the Jets goal.
This wasn’t as big game for the Canadiens as it was for the Jets, but it was important nonetheless.
Montreal and Boston are battling for the Northeast Division title, and the two teams went into the evening’s action with 59 points apiece. The Habs, still holding onto third place in the Eastern Conference when they arrived in Winnipeg were in a bit of slump, going 4-6-0 in their last 10.
Boston beat Tampa Bay 2-0 so the Habs and Bruins are even with 61 points heading into action on Saturday night. The Bruins have a game in hand on the Canadiens, and will complete their season on Sunday night against Ottawa. Both teams will play Saturday night.
As for the Jets, they gave the jerseys off their backs to lucky fans after the game and called it a season. Since the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg at the start of the 2011-12 season, Winnipeg has not reached the playoffs. Doubtless there will be major changes next season.
While it will be important to keep the likes of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Toby Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, Ondrej Pavelec, Alexander Burmistrov and Mark Stuart, it’s likely fans have seen the last of Ron Hainsey, Nik Antropov, Kyle Wellwood, Grant Clitsome and Derek Meech.
As well, young stars Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba will likely be playing in Winnipeg next season so it will be interesting who else returns — or does not return — to the fold.
Regardless, for the Winnipeg Jets, it’s next-year time again.
(All Jets photos in 2013 by Shawn Coates. MHN thanks Shawn for his outstanding efforts)