WINNIPEG – When you’re playing the best teams in the NHL, there will be nights when your ‘A’ game isn’t enough.
Monday night was one of those nights as the Winnipeg Jets brought a very strong effort but came up short 3-2 against the San Jose Sharks.
It was a tight, chippy game that was played well by both clubs, but in the end the Sharks were able to cash in on their opportunities when the Jets could not.
Joe Pavelski opened the scoring for the Sharks in the first but Josh Morrissey answered less than two minutes later, rifling a shot from the point past Aaron Dell.
The second period would yield few chances for either club as both played very strong defensively, but the Jets seemed to carry the bulk of the play for the first half before San Jose started to ratchet up the pressure, pouring 16 shots on net but Connor Hellebuyck stopped them all.
Early in the third, the crowd went nuts as Morrissey was tripped after dangling Paul Martin out of his skates, giving the Jets their third power play chance of the game.
But as it had so many times this season, the power play ground the Jets momentum to a halt, this time is in game-deciding fashion. Patrik Laine turned the puck over at the Sharks blue line, leading to a Mikkel Boedker breakaway. The Danish winger roofed it over the shoulder of Hellebuyck to give San Jose a 2-1 lead.
Winnipeg continued to throw all kinds of shots towards Dell but couldn’t break him. San Jose would get an empty-netter and Mark Scheifele scored with seven seconds left to make the final score 3-2. Dell finished with 31 saves, Hellebuyck with 27.
There was no doubt who the best player on the ice was for Winnipeg on this night. Morrissey was a man possessed, a one-man offensive wrecking crew who, with Jacob Trouba flanking his right side, continues to look more and more impressive as a pro defenceman.
“Both teams had good gaps, there wasn’t a lot to be had out there. That’s the sort of playoff hockey that we’re going to see down the stretch,” Morrissey mused after the loss. “Those are so valuable I think to learn from as young players but on the same token, we need to be able to find a way to get that win.”
It’s a great effort from the Jets but their issue now is that they’re playing from behind in the standings. A performance like this is a great building block for their long-term future, but with just 15 games left, the clock this season inches closer to midnight with each loss.
“We know the importance of the points and trying to accumulate as many as we can,” explained Adam Lowry. “We know our situation. We can’t afford to be giving up points. Being there, giving up a goal with ten minutes left to eventually lose, that’s unfortunate.”
So while they might not make the playoffs, the Jets are starting to play like a playoff team, one that perhaps just took too long to reach that point to make an impact this April. The next game won’t be much easier as they host the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday night.