The Winnipeg Jets playoff hopes took another sizeable hit with a 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Saturday Night. The defeat, coupled with Colorado’s 3-1 win in Dallas, left Winnipeg 9 points behind Minnesota for the last playoff spot in the West. The Avs jumped past the Wild and into the #1 Wild Card berth after Minnesota lost 4-3 in San Jose.
Dustin Byfuglien scored the only goal on a Winnipeg power play with just 5 minutes and change remaining in the game. The fourth consecutive game the Jets have been held to a single goal, and the 7th in the last 10 outings. Not surprisingly, Winnipeg is 1-5-1 in those 7 games.
The Jets came out less then inspired in the first period, and some bad luck put them in a hole when Toby Enstrom collided with Blake Wheeler just inside the Winnipeg blueline. That allowed Mike Cammalleri to jump on the loose puck and send a perfect cross crease feed to a wide open Lee Stempniak for a “tap in” and a 1-0 lead just past the mid way mark of the period.
“You’re scoring and you’re winning and you’re feeling good and you laugh about it,” said Head Coach Paul Maurice after the game about the embarrassing moment for Wheeler and Enstrom. “That’s one of those unusual things that happen once in every 40 games on the ice. But when you’re struggling like we are to score, that’s tough.” Jets are now 7-19-3 in the 29 games they’ve allowed the game’s opening goal.
The Jets were outshot 10-4 in the opening frame, and also lost Center Mathieu Perreault to injury. But they responded positively for the start of the second period and had the Devils on their heels for the most part. New Jersey did not get a shot on goal until Jacob Josefson fired a one timer from the right faceoff circle past Connor Hellebuyck with Drew Stafford in the box for tripping. Winnipeg outshot the Devils 10-2 but lost the period 1-0 In surrendering a power play goal against for the 7th straight home game.
The Devils pretty much put the game out of reach when Stempniak scored his 2nd goal of the night, and 14th of the season on a deflection of an Eric Gelinas wrist shot to make it 3-0 with just over 11 minutes to play.
Byfuglien feels maybe the success in ending an 0/8 drought on the power play is something the team can build off of, in an otherwise depressing part of the season. “It just goes to show, it’s not rocket science out there. It’s just getting pucks to the net,” said the Jets all star defenceman. “You know, just having someone there and whacking at it. We’re not happy with what happened but we can take some positives out of this.”
The Jets need something to hang their helmets on. They’ve won only 1 of 6 home games during a stretch that sees them playing 9 of 10 in their own rink. They’ll close out the “pre all star break” portion of their schedule with a 7pm faceoff against Arizona on Tuesday Night.