January 4, 2012
Jets destroyed in Montreal
By TED WYMAN, QMI Agency
MONTREAL - If this is who the Winnipeg Jets are when they're on the road, they've got some major issues.
Playing the first game of three in four nights, the Jets looked off, weren't skating with their usual authority and suffered the kind of breakdowns that were far more common early in the season as they got completely outclassed 7-3 by Lars Eller and the 13th-place Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
Everything the Jets did so well in December, their best month in franchise history, was out the window from the get-go. Bad turnovers, sloppy passing and a lack of sustained offensive pressure made it easy on the Habs, who were in top form and were fully deserving of the two points.
The Jets didn't play with the same heart, determination or fire that they showed throughout the last month, didn't get pucks deep and didn't forecheck well.
Other than that, it was great.
"The biggest thing is we weren't prepared to do the things that we've been doing for the last month and it showed," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "You can't play with half the players, meaning some guys were in and some guys were not, and was it because we were satisfied with our last month? We have to mature as a hockey team."
It was a magical night for Eller, who doubled his season output with four goals, including a beautiful penalty shot spinarama on Jets backup Chris Mason, who replaced starter Ondrej Pavelec after the latter gave up six goals on 24 shots.
The Habs scored two goals in 43 seconds in the first period and then had three in 50 seconds in the third.
The backbreaker was Eller's second goal early in the third after a giveaway by Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey.
Blake Wheeler scored a power play goal late in the second to make it 3-2 and the Jets started the third on the power play again, thinking they had a great chance to tie the game.
Less than five minutes later it was all over.
"We just let it get away," Hainsey said. "We just had a miscommunication. I tried to pass it to my partner and he didn't see it and they put it in. They got some momentum and put in two quick ones after that and it was out of reach."
The Jets are now ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 19-15-5 record, but more importantly they're a less-than-inspiring 5-9-4 on the road. Worse, they have to go into Toronto Thursday night knowing they haven't won the second of back-to-back games in five tries this season.
"It's absolutely not the way we wanted to start the road trip," said Pavelec. "We have to be way better on the road if we want to have success."
So, let's get this straight: The biggest issues facing this team are an inability to win on the second of back-to-back nights and a poor road record.
They have a good chance to start fixing both problems Thursday night.
"The good news is we get to go into Toronto here, play right away and focus on them," Hainsey said. "We'll stew over this for the next couple of hours and then get up in the morning and get ready for them."
How they bounce back after Wednesday's embarrassment will say a lot about this team.