The MTS Centre hasn’t quite been home sweet home for the Winnipeg Jets this season. With Thursday’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings, the Jets dropped to 4-4-1 at home. But they weren’t without their opportunities to put up back-to-back home wins.
After Dustin Byfuglien scored early in the second period, Adam Lowry stretched the Jets lead to 2-0 with his second goal of the season. Lowry, who was noticeable in Winnipeg’s game against New Jersey on Tuesday, potted his second of the season on a net-front scramble. Poking away at the puck, Lowry’s jab sent the puck floating over a prone Petr Mrazek, who was getting his first start of the season.
But, as would be the case on all four of Detroit’s markers on the night, one was followed shortly thereafter by another.
Still in the second, only thirty seconds after Lowry had scored the Jets second goal of the night and while the goal was still being announced, Tobias Enstrom made an ill-advised clearing attempt. Catching the puck on his tape in the corner and defending the puck from an attacking Justin Abdelkader, the Jets defenseman spun and fired a puck through the center of the ice and right onto the tape of Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar. Tatar made no mistake, ripping a blazing wrist shot high off the pipe and in.
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A sign of a relentless second period came when just under three minutes later, with the Jets on the penalty kill after Enstrom tripped Tatar, Johan Franzen took advantage of a Mark Stuart slip up. As the Jets rearguard stumbled, Franzen went wide and was in virtually alone with Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. With a quick shift of his shoulder, Franzen found enough room to beat Pavelec and tie the game.
Before the period was through, however, Mathieu Perrault buried his second of the season, putting Winnipeg back out in front. It’s encouraging to see pucks finally go in for Perrault who has, without a doubt, been one of the most consistent Jets this season. Strong defensively with a healthy dose of ability on the offensive side, Perrault is finally finding the back of the net and giving Winnipeg a touch of secondary scoring.
Going into the third with a one-goal lead, fans couldn’t have expected much more of the Jets. But, as any fan will tell you, hockey can be a cruel game. With the exception of two minutes in the third, the Jets dominated the flow of play, out-attempting the Red Wings and getting a good amount of zonetime. However, a short burst by the Red Wings late in the third was all they needed to bury the Jets.
A strange play in which the puck ended up on the stick of Detroit blueliner Brian Lashoff turned into a shot on goal, a deflection by Red Wings forward Riley Sheahan, a bounce off of Pavelec which then found its way off of the body of Abdelkader and into the back of the net.
Two minutes later, a beautiful backhand feed on a drive to the net by Abdelkader would find the tape of Tatar for a quick snapshot to the back of the net. The goal would stand as the winner. Two times, two goals in two minutes – the game story for the Jets in seven words.
What Winnipeg should take away from the game is that this is the style of play, and the type of game, they’re going to need to win. Surely, there are errors they’d like back; Enstrom’s pass and the slip by Stuart stand out. However, those are errors a young team, one that is still finding its way to continued success, is going to make.
Would two points – or even a single – have been nice? Absolutely, and these are two that got away. But last season, this may have been a game Winnipeg wasn’t even in. For all their faults, progress was never going to come all in one season for the Jets, but at the quarter-pole they’ve made their fair share of it.