Devils come back to beat Jets

Jets forward Nik Antropov pushes Devils defenceman Kurtis Foster into the net past goaltender...

Jets forward Nik Antropov pushes Devils defenceman Kurtis Foster into the net past goaltender Martin Brodeur at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Jan. 14, 2012. (FRED GREENSLADE/Reuters)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 PM ET

WINNIPEG - The numbers don’t always tell the story, but in the case of the Winnipeg Jets recent struggles, there’s no other place to start the discussion.

Despite a determined and dogged effort on Saturday afternoon, the Jets gave up a pair of goals in the third period and fell 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils before a crowd of 15,004 at the MTS Centre in a game that was of the utmost importance.

To say that third periods have not been kind to the Jets of late is a massive understatement.

Including Saturday, the Jets have now been outscored 12-1 in the final 20 minutes of regulation during the six games played in January.

Not surprisingly, the Jets find themselves in the midst of a three-game losing streak and their record during that span is 1-5 as the team has dipped below the playoff line in the Eastern Conference standings.

“We obviously haven’t been on the right side of the third-period scores lately,” said Jets defencman Ron Hainsey.

“I don’t know if that’s anything more than a coincidence, to be honest with you. But that’s definitely been the case the last week and a half.”

Coincidence or not, it’s a trend the Jets need to kick to the curb if they want to get things turned around, considering the stretch of games that is looming.

What’s around the corner for the Jets is a daunting task that will see them play six games in nine days — all against opponents from the East, many of whom are ahead of them in the chase for a playoff spot.

In Saturday’s game, the Jets came out with a strong first period against the tight-checking Devils and a heavy shot from Andrew Ladd gave them the lead at 18:31.

Following a scoreless second, the Devils pulled even on a rather innocent-looking face-off play.

Jets centre Jim Slater tied up Dainius Zubrus, but Zubrus found a way to kick the puck back to Kurtis Foster, who came off the wall and rifled his quick shot past Ondrej Pavelec at 9:45 of the third.

The ironic thing is that after getting dominated in the dots on Thursday, the Jets actually won 70% of the face-offs on Saturday.

“I don’t really know what happened, it was an even draw,” said Slater. “It’s a tough break.”

A few shifts later, Patrik Elias made a smart play to let a pass through his legs and get out to the right point, then eluded his checker to redirect home a slap-pass from rookie Adam Larsson at 12:43.

Unlike previous losses to the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks, the Jets showed some life after falling behind and made a strong late push with the goalie out in favour of an extra attacker — but were unable to deliver the equalizer.

“It’s a matter of playing the same way, whether we’re up by one or down by one, we’ve got to keep pressing,” said Ladd. “That’s the strength of our game, putting the pressure on, creating turnovers and not letting them take control in our own end.

“It’s tough. Obviously, you lose a stretch of games and it’s frustrating but you’ve got to lean on each other. We’ve got to stick together. That’s the only way we’re getting out of this. We’ve got to play together and stay as positive as we can.”

Showing some push-back is an important next step for the Jets, but ultimately and at this time of the year, getting the results is what’s required.

Moral victories don’t come with any points attached.


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