Effort level ‘isn’t good enough’ as Jets suffer third loss in a row

Carter Hart maintained his perfect 4-0-0 career record against the Winnipeg Jets with an unbelievable 40-save shutout performance to help the Philadelphia Flyers to a 4-0 win.

WINNIPEG — Rick Bowness isn’t one to mince words and this was a prime example of that.

On a night where his top guns were mostly missing in action, the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets didn’t hold back in his public criticism.

Bowness reinforced his belief in the group, but he’s also asking them for more — much more.

“There is a price to pay in this league, you have to work, you have to compete, and you have to do it every night. As the season progresses, it gets harder,” said Bowness. “We had some guys that clearly didn’t want to play tonight. The difference makers, you can’t even find them out there. Until we make that commitment again to play as a team and we want to win, this is what you get.

“We’re a good hockey team. You have to work and you have to compete. As soon as it gets tough, you can’t change from that. Right now we’re going through a spell that as soon as the adversity kicks in, we’re going on our own program. Which was the problem all of last year. We thought we had corrected it, now we have to correct it again, and we will.”

Bowness was asked about the boos that rained down from the hometown crowd and had absolutely no issue with it.

“I’m surprised there weren’t more boos. I am,” said Bowness. “We’re still fighting for first place. Now we’ve gotta turn this around, clearly. We get that game on Monday night, we’ll be okay. But regardless of the outcome of that game on Monday night, we need a 60 minute effort.

“That’s all the fans want to see, is a 60 minute effort. The wins and losses will take care of themselves if you take care of the effort and take care of the process. That will take care of itself. Right now the process isn’t good enough and the effort isn’t good enough. And that’s all our fans want to see. So they’re justified in their boos.”

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Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck doesn’t like to be pulled and Bowness doesn’t like to remove his No. 1 netminder from games, no matter what the score is.

With that as a backdrop, the Jets head coach got out the hook for the first time this season in Game 51, replacing Hellebuyck with David Rittich with 13:12 to go in the third period.

To be clear, this wasn’t your garden variety, sending a message to get a spark pull either.

It’s in the mercy pull category as those four goals against Hellebuyck came on 30 shots on goal.

“Yeah, it was,” said Bowness, who said Hellebuyck will be back between the pipes on Monday against the St. Louis Blues. “Don’t embarrass pretty clearly one of the best goalies in the league. Don’t embarrass him. That was enough.”

There were no softies either, the final two coming on a clear-cut breakaway and a beautifully converted two-on-one rush.

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It’s the sixth time in eight games the Jets have been held to two goals or fewer and just the second time they’ve been blanked this season — the other coming back on Nov. 19 when they lost 3-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Because of the offensive struggles the Jets are enduring, they’ve put a lot of pressure on Hellebuyck to be near perfect of late.

“I’m not going to throw us under the bus,” said Jets centre Adam Lowry. “We haven’t loved our last few games and we’ve got one left going into the break. So, obviously look for a response. The execution hasn’t been there the last few games at home especially so, it’s one of those things.

“It feels like the sky is falling a bit, but we’re still in a good spot, we can win this game against St. Louis on Monday, and going into the break, use those rest days and come back really refreshed. Obviously we’re disappointed with the effort, disappointed with the outcome, three games in a row that we’ve kind of let slip away. You’re going to want to stop this slide as soon as we can.”

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Right now, the Jets are focusing all of their energy on trying to snap this three-game losing skid on Monday night against a Blues team that is below the playoff line and trying to get back in this race in the Western Conference.

“Everybody has just got to play to their identity, to do what they do best,” said Jets defenceman Brenden Dillon. “We can’t have guys trying to do too much or step outside their game. That’s why we’ve had such a successful season — down a goal, up a goal, on the road, at home, we’ve been so good and we’ve just gotten away from that a little bit.

“It just seems that if one shift goes bad, the next shift, instead of us taking the game back, we’re seeming to play in our zone a little bit more or the puck gets turned over or something happens. We’ve just got to find a way to stop that. We’ve had enough meetings amongst us as players and coaches, that we’ve just to go out there and do it, really.”

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