Jets unable to find urgency in disheartening loss to Red Wings

Sam Gagner scored two goals, the first of which was his 500th NHL career point, leading the Detroit Red Wings to victory over the Winnipeg Jets 3-1.

WINNIPEG – Josh Morrissey could not hide his emotion, nor did he need to.

The agony on his face and the tone of his voice painted a picture that encapsulated the situation perfectly, even as he did his best to provide a thoughtful and measured response.

While the latest wound was still too fresh to allow Morrissey to delve into a full-on autopsy or audit of what has become another lost season for these Winnipeg Jets, the defenceman and alternate captain gave a glimpse into the sheer and utter disappointment of what transpired after a devastating 3-1 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night.

You might consider the use of "devastating" to be a little overdramatic, given the unlikely run required for the Jets, but for a group that essentially needed to run the table and go 12 for 12 to keep hope alive, dropping a decision to a non-playoff team that had given up 50 shots the night before and travelled to Winnipeg for a game was not something they could afford on their bingo card.

So you could understand why Morrissey would be exasperated with trying to provide answers at a time when so many questions continue to swirl around the roster and what the future might actually bring over the coming months.

“To be honest, I don’t think one word has been said since the game ended in the locker room. Not one word,” said Morrissey. “I think the reason for the silence is the frustration. Obviously, we can’t afford to lose games right now. And that’s a game we shouldn’t lose. Just with their schedule and our desperation, they’re playing on a back-to-back.

“It’s frustrating. Every guy knows that in the room. So, that’s the emotion.”

The problem for the Jets is that they simply did not show enough urgency until it was too late.

Sure, they had a better start but couldn’t convert their quality scoring chances, nor were they able to prevent the Red Wings from scoring a shorthanded goal late in the first period.

Then, after pulling even on a nifty redirection by Mark Scheifele and momentarily pulling ahead on a Blake Wheeler tip-in that was taken off the board by a successful coach’s challenge for offside, the Jets couldn’t find a way to beat Red Wings backup Thomas Greiss.

Michael Rasmussen cleaned up the loose change on a goalmouth scramble in the third period and Sam Gagner scored his second goal of the game into an empty net on an evening he produced the 500th and 501st points of his NHL career.

Just like that, another opportunity was lost for a Jets team that has failed to live up to the expectations placed upon them after reaching the second round last June and bolstering their roster by addressing a couple of holes on the blue line.

In a season where wins over teams above the playoff line have been incredibly tough to come by – and especially so after that franchise best 9-3-3 start that feels like a lifetime ago – this was another defeat that landed squarely in the disappointment pile.

You know, the one that already included head-scratching losses to the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Seattle Kraken, Philadelphia Flyers, Ottawa Senators, Columbus Blue Jackets and a pair to the New York Islanders.

At a time when urgency should be plentiful, once again the Jets left the door open for their opponent and didn’t dictate the terms of the play nearly enough during the final 40 minutes of play.

Really good teams often find a way to win, even when they aren’t operating at an optimal level – and right now, the Jets simply don’t fall into that category often enough.

There are glimpses of potential to be sure, just not enough examples to establish a defined standard of play that the Jets can rely on.

Consistently inconsistent is not an identity teams are looking to adopt.

The Jets' offensive attack still routinely bounces between the feast or famine categories and there isn't a deep enough commitment to defending.

And that’s not a winning combination, especially at this time of the year, when teams are gearing up for a run at the Stanley Cup.

Attention to detail can’t be optional, and that’s another one of the many reasons the Jets find themselves on the outside looking in and on the verge of officially finding themselves in next-year country.

This was another night when the Jets simply failed to provide enough run support for goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who clearly did his part with a 32-save effort in his 59th start of the season.

For the 32nd time, the Jets were held to two goals or fewer and they’ve won a grand total of three of those games (3-24-5).

“I thought that we had a lot of good shifts throughout the game, a lot of zone time. Maybe trying to be a little too cute with a couple of those passes,” said Jets left winger Kyle Connor, who returned from the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols and could have been a little more direct. "Look at the two goals that we scored, it comes off that shot-tip from the point. Just getting pucks down low and winning the battles. I think if we repeat that a little more often, we get a couple of more goals.”

Getting to those hard areas a bit more often and not passing up quality looks from dangerous positions must become instinctive for the Jets.

Talking about those deficiencies can only do so much, though.

Action is what’s required from this group, and the next challenge comes from the league-leading Colorado Avalanche, who have already handed the Jets 7-1 and 6-3 losses (the latter came after the Jets held a 3-0 advantage). With Dallas' OT loss to the Maple Leafs on Thursday, the Jets are now eight points behind the Stars, who hold a game in hand.

It may be too late to salvage what’s left of this season, but those 11 games can’t just be a write-off either – no matter how disheartening the results have been during this three-game losing skid.

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