The Winnipeg Jets lost their fifth straight game in Montreal Thursday night. Now the playoffs, that looked so inviting two weeks ago, suddenly appear to be a bit of a long shot.
Thursday night in Montreal, the Jets were drilled 4-1 by the Montreal Canadiens while the Washington Capitals beat the New York Islanders 2-1 in a shootout.
That means the Jets and Capitals are now tied atop the Southeast Division. Trouble is, the Capitals are now 18-17-2 and officially in first place in the Southeast (third in the East) while the Jets are 18-19-2 and officially in second place in the Southeast, but in 10th place in the East.
It was said at the start of the season: The teams that will struggle are the teams have that extended losing streaks. About 10 days ago, the Jets had a six point lead in the Southeast and appeared to be on their way to an easy playoff berth. But after five straight defeats, a record of 1-5-0 in their last six on the road and a 10-10-2 road record to go with an 8-9-0 home mark, the Jets are below .500 and out of the Top 8 in the East.
Thursday night in Montreal, it was ugly. Dustin Byfuglien, who leads the Jets in average ice time with 24 minutes a game, watched most of the third period from the bench. He finished with only 15 minutes of ice time. Noel used Byfuglien at rightwing on a line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little but abandoned that thought in the third period.
Mike Santorelli, the newest Jet, played 14 minutes and had three shots.
The Jets opened the scoring when Alexander Burmistrov scored from Andrew Ladd and Grant Clitsome at 8:16 of the first period. But after that, it was all Habs all the time. Michael Ryder tied the game before the end of the first period, Ryder and Brian Gionta scored in the second and Alexander Galchenyuk rounded out the 4-1 win in the third.
“We need a break here to catch our breath,” said a very frustrated Blake Wheeler. “We’re playing every other night and we need to get home and get some home cooking and put some wins together. We have to look in the mirror. It’s up to the guys in the room to go out and get the job done.”
It didn’t help the Jets that they were completely outgunned on special teams. The Jets went 0-for-three on the power play while the Canadiens went two-for-two.
“The key is to go to those dirty areas on the ice and eventually those pucks will start going in,” said Blake Wheeler. “On the penalty kill and power play we aren’t getting the job done and you have to win the special teams battles if you hope to win hockey games.”
Peter Budaj made 33 saves to get the win in the Canadiens net while Ondrej Pavelec made 20 saves and took the loss. The Jets outhit Montreal 22-13 and won 55 per cent of the faceoffs, but with an anemic power play and no penalty kill, the Jets were done.
Despite the fact they’ve played 39 games already, the Jets don’t get any rest. Winnipeg will play Philadelphia on Saturday at MTS Centre. Game time is 2 p.m. and it’s on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.