WINNIPEG — The temptation is to toss this outing into that small pile of games to review and ultimately discard.
The list of no-shows have been the exception, rather than the general rule and to be honest, this one won’t fall in that category either.
Lessons to learn and things to avoid that show up on the review of the game film?
A lack of execution at times?
Cause for five-alarm fire levels of concern?
Not even close.
Through 27 games, the Winnipeg Jets have been a consistent bunch, a group head coach Rick Bowness and his staff have been able to count on to put forth a sound and often structured effort.
Sure, there have been a few outliers – the recent disheartening defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets and a stinker last month against the Minnesota Wild immediately come to mind – but the Jets were riding a four-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s outing and their record left them in top spot in the Western Conference, at least in terms of point percentage.
So while the 5-2 loss to the Washington Capitals won’t go down as anything near the template for how the Jets are trying to look, a dramatic overreaction isn’t the smart play either.
Sure, the Jets had some trouble with the Capitals trapping style in the neutral zone, which prevented them from gaining much speed or doing the necessary things when it came to zone entries or dump-in retrievals.
Although this season has yet to reach the midway point, the Jets have been able to build some goodwill when it comes to the ability to rebound and regroup.
That’s precisely what will be required when the Jets welcome the Vegas Golden Knights to town on Tuesday as this three-game homestand continues.
“We’re a good team. We’re in first place for a reason,” said Bowness. “We’ll bounce back. We know we haven’t played well against Vegas. We played terrible the two games in there. We got a really good team coming in again and we know we’re a lot better than tonight, a lot better than what we showed in Vegas. Now, we’ve got to bounce back.”
Going into Sunday’s tilt, there was plenty of talk about the Alex Ovechkin watch, as he continues his pursuit of Gordie Howe for second place on the all-time goals list.
While the Jets were able to mostly contain Ovechkin, it was the Capitals supporting cast that did the damage before the Russian winger deposited No. 797 into the empty net with 2:12 left in regulation.
Whether it was Evgeny Kuznetsov sneaking behind the Jets defence to accept a crisp pass from John Carlson for a power play goal or Marcus Johansson burying a backhand deke after a beautiful fake for a rare penalty shot marker while shorthanded, the Capitals were the better team in this one.
But given the number of significant rallies around the NHL this season, the Jets weren’t about to throw in the towel after allowing four goals in the second period.
“We can score,” said Bowness. “Especially the way we finished the last four or five minutes of that second period. We just talked, we’re still in this thing. There have been a lot of comebacks in this league. We got that early first one, that helped, getting the second one helped, we just didn’t get that third one. We didn’t go into that third period on our heels thinking ‘this game is over.’ We thought we still had a chance.”
For those who simply took a cursory glance at the game sheet, this wasn’t a goaltending issue for the Jets either.
Connor Hellebuyck was the reason the Jets survived a sleepy start (the shots on goal were 8-1 for the Capitals at one point and this wasn’t one of those times when the quality of those chances was on the less-dangerous side).
Hellebuyck’s play allowed the Jets to turn the tide, although they weren’t able to turn that into offence until a pair of goals in the opening 3:29 of the third period that prompted Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette to use his timeout to try and stop the momentum.
“It’s a good response. It’s good desperation. We competed all the way to the end, we just can’t have those lapses,” said Jets defenceman Neal Pionk. “We knew we hadn’t played our best but we knew we were going to get scoring chances. We had a few in the first and second so we knew… We said, ‘In the first five minutes, (if) we get one, you never know what can happen.’”
Ultimately, an inability to cash in on a double minor to Lars Eller for high-sticking during the second period proved to be costly for the Jets, who finished zero-for-3 in the game and lost the special teams battle 2-0 — allowing one goal on the power play and another while shorthanded.
“Yeah, we’ve talked about how our power play isn’t going to be 100 per cent. The best power plays, they go 25, 30 per cent. But you want to give yourself momentum,” said Dubois. “At times this year the power play has been there for us and given us a chance to win or won games for us. Other times, like tonight. It’s just not good enough. We’ll talk about it tomorrow and get ready for the next game. But we had a huge opportunity tonight. And we let the team down for that.”
After Adam Lowry broke up the shutout bid for Charlie Lindgren 35 seconds into the third period, Dubois showed some smarts and creativity by choking down on his stick before burying a pass from Kyle Connor on what was a three-on-one rush, giving him 14 goals on the season.
What was the inspiration for the instinctive maneuver?
“I think that was mini sticks. When I used to get a mini stick, I’d put it on the stove and put a little curve on it and then go play in the basement,” said Dubois. “It was a nice pass by KC, but it was a little in front. It was either a torn groin or I made the stick a bit shorter, so I went with the second option.”
AROUND THE GLASS
The Jets placed forward Saku Maenalanen (suspected right shoulder) and defenceman Logan Stanley (left knee) on injured reserve on Sunday afternoon and recalled forward Kevin Stenlund from the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis — which means that another forward is dealing with a nagging issue. Bowness said after the game that both Maenalanen and Stanley would be out of the lineup for at least a month, joining forwards Nikolaj Ehlers and Mason Appleton in that longer-term category…With his third period assist, Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey tied his career high for helpers in what was just his 27th game of the campaign…Jets centre Mark Scheifele received a 10-minute misconduct with 2:12 to go in regulation time, presumably for sharing some harsh words for the men in stripes. It’s the second time this season Scheifele has been sent to the showers early by the officials.