Jets mauled by Panthers

Jets captain Andrew Ladd (left) holds back Panthers forward Matt Bradley at the MTS Centre in...

Jets captain Andrew Ladd (left) holds back Panthers forward Matt Bradley at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Nov. 10, 2011. (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:59 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Try as they might to avoid it, the Winnipeg Jets were the latest victim of the malady commonly known as laying an egg in their first game back after a lengthy road trip.

Following two weeks on the road, the Jets were hoping to draw some life from an energetic, sellout crowd of 15,004 at MTS Centre, but instead fell flat on their collective faces until a third-period surge, dropping a 5-2 decision to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

So head coach Claude Noel, was fatigue a factor at all in this one?

"That's a bad excuse," said Noel. "And that's where it needs to sit. It was a poor performance by our players, it's that simple. If you can play 20 minutes, you can play 60. It was poor and it was all because of lack of intensity. It was that simple. If you watched our first two periods, our decisions were poor. Turnovers, not physical, turning on players. Poor.

"We were not good from the goaltender on out. What do you want me to say?"

Noel pretty much covered it all during his shortest post-game exchange of the season, which lasted less than two-and-a-half minutes.

The Jets hadn't played at home since Oct. 24, when they lost 2-1 to the New York Rangers.

And after their season-long, seven-game odyssey that saw the Jets post a respectable 3-2-2 record, the Jets played five pretty good minutes in the first period before going into a shell they couldn't crawl out of until finding some urgency in the third period.

"We just weren't able to mentally get over that hurdle, we had a lapse after that first five minutes that put us in a big hole that we couldn't dig ourselves out of," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd, who scored his fourth goal of the season to make it 4-2 at 5:40 of the third period.

During that stretch, the Jets actually went more than 23 minutes without recording a single shot on goal.

"Yeah, it's embarassing more than anything. It's embarssing when you get booed off your own ice," said Jets forward Tim Stapleton, who scored his first goal of the season on a power play early in the third. "With the speed up front and the talent we have, we should be getting a lot of shots and shooting from everywhere. I don't even know what to think about that."

So what changed in the third period, when the Jets looked like a completely different team?

"We really had no choice in the third but to do what we were doing," said Stapleton. "Usually when a team is up by four goals, they usually sit back. It was just too late. You can't give any team in this league a four-goal lead. It's the NHL."

Not to pin this on the goaltending by any stretch, but Ondrej Pavelec looked tired after starting his eighth consecutive game.

Pavelec gave up two goals on the first five shots he faced and was unable to get in the kind of groove he had displayed with regularity during the road trip.

To be blunt, he didn't have a lot of help on this night either.

Noel pulled Pavelec after 40 minutes, replacing him with Peter Mannino -- who turned aside all four shots he faced, including a breakaway stop on Tomas Kopecky.

With the defeat, the Jets fall to 5-8-3 on the season and now face a virtual must-win against the reeling Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.


Videos

Photos