RALEIGH - In the end, it was death by a thousand cuts for the Winnipeg Jets.
They almost stopped the bleeding, but they ultimately couldn’t be saved.
The Carolina Hurricanes scored two goals on their first four shots and held on for a 2-1 triumph over the Jets at RBC Center on Monday night. The Jets (22-21-6) remain three points out of eighth in the Eastern Conference, but they are also three back of ninth after the Toronto Maple Leafs won on Monday.
The Jets fired everything they had at the Hurricanes in the third period, out-shooting them 14-2. But they couldn’t sneak one past red-hot Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward, who stopped Alex Burmistrov on a short-handed break, got help from one of his posts, and caused Kyle Wellwood to fire a breakaway attempt over the net with two minutes to go.
The Hurricanes improved to 8-2-1 in their last 11 at home and are now just five points back of the Jets in the very tight Southeast Conference, which should produce quite the race down the stretch.
It was a potpourri of problems that hurt the Jets in the first half of the game, as many afflictions that have plagued them this season all showed up at the same time: turnovers at the blue-lines, missing the net with shots, a sluggish start and not penetrating to the opposing net. Basically, it was vintage road Jets, who fell to a dismal 7-13-4 away from MTS Centre this season.
Then, over the last half of the game, it was their inability to put the puck in the net that did them in. Sound familiar? It was one of those losses where they may look back on it at the end of the season and cringe.
The Jets haven’t been burned by too many bad goals against this season, but the game-winner came off a Tim Brent shot near the goal-line that ended up going off Chris Mason’s left pad and into the net. It was a tough one for the veteran to swallow.
“It was a terrible goal,” said Mason, who fell to 3-1 against the Canes this season.
“The guy was passing out front, and I left before it hit my stick and went in. It was a terrible goal, and it ended up being the game-winner.”
Carolina’s first goal a few minutes earlier was the result of a lucky bounce. Jeff Skinner skated down the left side and tried to pass it out front, but it bounced off Ron Hainsey and right back onto his stick. Mason had also moved left, allowing Skinner to fire the puck into the wide-open cage.
“Our goalies have been really good for us, so I’m not going to sit and blame the goaltending for a situation like this,” head coach Claude Noel said. “These things happen. Our goaltenders have not given up many bad goals throughout our whole season, so we can be thankful for that.”
Carolina’s lucky goal has nothing to do with Winnipeg’s slow start, however, plus its inability to get enough traffic in front of the opposition’s goaltender.
Two goals or fewer
The Jets scored two goals or fewer for the seventh time in its last 10 games and have only three wins in its last 11 outings.
“In order to score you gotta be ready to go off the start, and it didn’t seem that we were prepared,” Noel said.
The Jets better be ready on Tuesday night when they travel to Madison Square Garden to battle the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers. Winnipeg’s 0-7 record in the second half of back-to-backs has been well-documented, and there’s a chance the Jets could be as many as five points out of a playoff spot going into the break if the stars don’t align for them on Tuesday night.
“We haven’t played great on the road, and we haven’t won a back-to-back game,” Wellwood said. “So confidence-wise, going into the break, we need to get something out of it.”