WINNIPEG - It’s a crying shame that Ondrej Pavelec was the losing goaltender Tuesday night.
Pavelec put in an heroic effort that will wind up looking lousy on the scoresheet because he allowed five goals in the Jets 5-4 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Pavelec stopped 50 shots and made numerous highlight-reel saves as the Jets tried to nurse a one-goal lead in the third period of a thrilling hockey game, but the Flyers finally wore the home team down and wrestled away a key two points.
In one of the most entertaining games of the season, the Jets had a chance to steal a win because Pavelec was that much better than Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. But the Flyers were the better team, as evidenced by their huge shot total and they scored with 10 seconds left in the third period to tie the game and again in overtime to win it.
It was a shocker for disappointed fans, who had visions of first place in the Southeast Division dancing in their heads, but the Jets know if you give a team as talented as the Flyers that many chances, you will eventually get burned.
The Jets owe Pavelec a big apology for that one.
WHAT'S WITH THE RUN AND GUN?
Jets coach Claude Noel said he didn’t want his team to get into a run and gun game with the Flyers but wound up in another shootout. He said they wouldn’t win like that and he was bang on ... The Jets have scored 13.4% of their 157 goals this season in four games against the Flyers ... The Jets had a 4-3 lead late in the third thanks to Evander Kane’s weak goal on Bryzgalov. You can see why Philly fans aren’t happy with the guy when he gives up a goal like that on a high shot from well out ... The crowd was on its feet, roaring approval for what looked like a Jets win when a series of unfortunate events led to Wayne Simmonds’ tying goal. First Bryan Little was knocked down at the blue-line, then James Van Riemsdyk was allowed to walk into the corner and throw the puck out front and Simmonds beat Dustin Byfuglien to the front of the net for tap-in. Just poor play overall by the Jets in such a key situation and you have to wonder why Byfuglien wasn’t all over Simmonds. Who cares if you take a penalty with 10 seconds left? ... A Ron Hainsey turnover at the Jets blue-line and Johnny Oduya’s inability to win a puck battle with Daniel Briere led to Jaromir Jagr’s overtime goal and the victory they were 10 seconds away from celebrating was suddenly a demoralizing loss that cost the Jets a chance to at least see their name listed third in the Eastern Conference playoff seedings ... Pavelec’s biggest save of the night was an incredible lunging glove stop off Jakub Voracek that brought fans to their feet and was sure to be all over the highlights, but he made a few more brilliant stops after that as the Flyers made the Jets defenders look silly time and again.
LADD'S BUSTING OUT
Jets captain Andrew Ladd went 13 games without a goal but has been going to the net well and getting results in recent games. He scored two goals Tuesday, has three in the last two games, and had at least three good chances to get the hat trick. He was foiled by Bryzgalov’s pad once, his glove another time and the post on the third ... The Jets scored three power-play goals and have now been successful on five straight man-advantages. If they can keep being successful in that area, they’re going to win a lot of hockey games ... Just like the other times the Jets played the Flyers this season, they roared back every time the Jets took a lead, continually got pucks to the net and created rebound opportunities. They were relentless in that strategy and eventually it paid off ... Byfuglien has 11 points in his last seven games and has been the kind of offensive force from the blue-line that makes the Jets hard to defend against. He had a terrific blast from the point to get the Jets on the board on the power play in the first ... Thanks to Pavelec, the Jets actually picked up a key point with the overtime loss (they’re all huge at this time) but I can’t imagine anyone feels good about it.
WATCH OUT, JOHNSON!
Anyone who reads this column regularly knows I hate the slashing the stick penalty with a passion because refs only call it when the stick gets broken or dropped. But if they are going to call it, they damn well better be consistent and I don’t see how the refs could miss Van Riemsdyk splitting Kane’s twig in the first period ... Two of the Jets top-scoring forwards did a great job of coming back to take away two-on-one opportunities from the Flyers. Good to see Kane and Blake Wheeler using their blazing speed at both ends of the ice ... TSN Jets colour man Mike Johnson learned the perils of calling the game from between the benches when the stick of Flyers star Claude Giroux smashed his watch ... I’m not always a fan of the Jets fans seranading the opposing goaltenders relentlessly, but in the case of Bryzgalov, it couldn’t happen to a better guy ... Eric Fehr’s odds of staying in the lineup went down with his soft back-pass in his own zone that resulted in a turnover and a decent scoring chance for Flyers D Pavel Kubina.
WHEELER A REAL PLAYER
Thanks to his recent hot streak, Wheeler has set a career high for points and is becoming a real bargain for the Jets. Wheeler now has more points than many of the elite (and highest paid) forwards in the league, even though he only makes $2.55 million per year. The fact that he has more points than Washington superstar Alex Ovechkin, who is badly underperforming with just 45 points and minus-7 rating, is the most shocking. But with 47 points after Tuesday’s game, Wheeler had more points than Vincent Lacavalier (46 points), Brad Richards (40), Michael Richards (28), Daniel Alfredsson (44), Dany Heatley (42), Henrik Zetterberg (46), Jaromir Jagr (41), Rick Nash (40), Ryan Kesler (41), Thomas Vanek (45), Tyler Seguin (46), Ryan Getzlaf (41) and Bobby Ryan (36). It’s even more impressive when you consider what many of those players are paid. Ovechkin, for instance, makes $9.5 million a year. Lecavalier gets $7.7 million, Nash, who is the darling of this year’s trade deadline, makes $7.8 million, and Brad Richards, who was the darling of free agency last off-season, makes $6.6 million. You get the picture. The Jets are getting real bang for their buck from Wheeler ... The Jets have played four more games than the Florida Panthers, a team they are battling for first place in the Southeast Division. The Panthers won’t make up those games in hand until March 13 (in fact, by March 15 they’ll have played one more game than the Jets). A big weekend for the Panthers will be March 4-5, when they have two games and the Jets are off.