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The End of the Second Period: Jets Still in Trouble

Two periods are over. The Winnipeg Jets have passed the two-thirds mark of the 2013-14 campaign and despite all the recent optimism (much of it my own), the Jets laid a bit of an egg at home on Tuesday night.

It was an inauspicious way to finish the second 20 minutes (metaphorically speaking) of the season. After 55 games the Jets are now .500 again. They’ve played very well since Paul Maurice became head coach seven games ago, but on Tuesday night, they looked a little like the Claude Noel Jets.

Roman Josi scores against Ondrej Pavelec on Tuesday night. (Photo by Shawn Coates).

Roman Josi scores against Ondrej Pavelec on Tuesday night. (Photo by Shawn Coates).

That’s going to happen, of course. The Jets are who we thought they were. But after winning five of six under Maurice, I would suspect that most Jets fans figured Tuesday night’s home matchup against the mediocre Nashville Predators (if the Preds didn’t have the best coach in the NHL, that talent-challenged team would be battling Edmonton for the basement) would have been a walk in the proverbial park.

It wasn’t. A power-play goal by Mike Fisher, 42 seconds into the third period was the winner — and the final goal of the night — as Nashville beat Winnipeg 4-3.

No doubt people will be asking this morning, “Why didn’t head coach Paul Maurice go with Al Montoya in net after his brilliant game against Chicago on Sunday night?” That was certainly a question some were asking on Tuesday night at the rink.

Winnipeg Jets forward Dustin Byfuglien (33) chases Nashville Predators defenceman Seth Jones (3) in NHL action at the MTS Centre, Jan. 28, 2014. SHAWN COATES PHOTO

Dustin Byfuglien (33) chases Seth Jones (3) (Photo by Shawn Coates)

Regardless, the Jets outshot Nashville 27-25 and outhit the Preds 45-27, but with exception of a few minutes in the second period and during a typical Jets flurry at the end of the game, Winnipeg didn’t have that many great scoring chances. Nashville certainly didn’t look like a playoff contender, by any stretch, but the Preds figured one thing out — score more goals.

It didn’t take a rocket surgeon to analyze this one. Neither team played a consistently good hockey game. It’s just that one team outscored the other on a night that wasn’t a Rembrandt for either goalie.

So where are the Jets after two-thirds of the campaign? They are 25-25-5, last in the Central Division and 12th in the Western Conference (boy that’s a familiar refrain, no matter who is coaching). With 27 games to play, they are at least seven points out of the final playoff spot in the West (eighth-place Minnesota was leading Anaheim 2-1 when we called it a night). They aren’t out of the playoff hunt, but gaining at least seven points and jumping over three other teams in order to get to eighth will not be easy with only 27 left.

They are now 6-2 under Maurice. That’s an improvement, no question, but they had so far to go when Maurice took over that every loss is devastating — especially home losses to teams below them in the standings.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (31) makes a pad save in NHL action at the MTS Centre, Jan. 28, 2014. SHAWN COATES PHOTO

Ondrej Pavelec (31) didn’t have a great night (Photo by Shawn Coates)

The Jets weren’t awful on Tuesday night, but they weren’t the same electrifying club that scored three unanswered third-period goals against Chicago on Sunday night, nor were they the club that hung in there and beat Anaheim 3-2 on the West Coast, or the one that whipped Phoenix 5-1 in Maurice’s debut.

Granted, you can’t do that kind of thing every night, but losing to Nashville in your own barn in front of your own crazy fans was definitely not part of the comeback plan.

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