TAMPA – Don’t let a good effort in the third period fool you, the Winnipeg Jets took it on the chin on Friday night.
Too many penalties, too many dumb plays and too few big saves combined to leave the Winnipeg Jets a tattered mess of the team that was 3-1-1 after the first five games of the season.
Building a 6-0 lead after 40 minutes, the Tampa Bay Lightning coasted to a 8-3 win over the Jets in front of a tremendous crowd of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Friday night.
For the first two periods, the Jets were simply horrendous.
Outstanding freshman Cory Conacher scored two goals and added an assist to take over the rookie scoring lead with 11 points (see our article on the NHL’s next great scorers) while Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists to extend his scoring streak to seven games. Vincent Lecavalier also had a goal and two assists as the Lightning built a 3-0 lead after the first period and a 6-0 lead after two.
In the third, the Jets outscored the Lightning 3-2, but it looked a lot more like a pre-season game than the eighth game of the lockout-shortened season. Of course, it was also quite meaningless. The Jets trailed 6-0 and try as they might, they weren’t coming back.
“We have two choices now,” said Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey. “We can whine and pout about it or we can make a decision individually and collectively to go home, work hard this weekend and get better.”
While penalties killed the Jets in every game on this road trip, short-handed situations created a massacre in Tampa. After all, Tampa already had the league’s best offense, at 4.83 goals per game, heading into the game. Coming out, they had moved the average above 5 thanks to their frightening power play. All three goals in the first period were power play goals, one of them coming on a 5-on-3 situation.
“Were we rattled in the first period? It was hard to tell,” said Hainsey. “I think were spending so much time trying to kill penalties and get out of the period with a chance that we didn’t have time to be rattled.
“They have a very skilled team. It’s tough enough playing against that team at even strength. It’s very difficult trying to play them a man short all the time.”
For Tampa head coach Guy Boucher, it was a difficult game to coach.
“This was a weird game to coach,” Boucher said. “We were up 6-0 early. If we didn’t have a game tomorrow we would have played differently and I would have coached differently. I would have pushed the pace. We were just trying to get through the rest of the game without injuries and the least problems happening.”
On the other side, Jets coach Claude Noel knew that penalties made all the difference in the outcome. That and the fact Dustin Byfuglien was scratched from the lineup again.
“Obviously in the second period the game got out of hand,” Noel said. “You can spin it in any negative fashion you want and obviously we’re all aware of what took place. I know it was out of hand.
“There were some things in the third that I thought we did pretty well, but it was over by then. I know the guys didn’t compete as hard as we’d have liked, but for us we’re going to move forward and try to take some positives out of this thing.
“We have a game on Tuesday and a couple of practices and we’re going to move forward. I’m not going to dwell on that type of game.”
True, no sense dwelling on the fact that from the midway point of the third period in Sunrise, Fla., on Thursday night to the end of the second period in Tampa on Friday night, the Jets allowed 10 straight goals – Ondrej Pavelec gave up the first nine of them and Al Montoya allowed the 10th.
It was an ugly road trip, it left the Jets 3-4-1 and they’ll play again on Tuesday night at MTS Centre against the same Florida Panthers that whupped them 6-3 on Thursday.
Game time is 7:30 and it’s on TSN Jets TV.