March 9, 2012
Jets snapshots: Third-period struggles resurface
By Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency
The harsh reality is that the Winnipeg Jets have slipped back below the playoff line.
Despite putting forth a game effort against one of the Western Conference powerhouses, the Jets coughed up a third-period lead and dropped a 3-2 decision to the Vancouver Canucks before a packed house at Rogers Arena on Thursday night.
A pair of former Manitoba Moose players — defenceman Kevin Bieksa and winger Jannik Hansen assisted on the game-winner from Sami Pahlsson, an important trade-deadline pick-up by the Canucks.
With the loss, the Jets slipped to 32-28-8 on the season (11-18-4 on the road) and dropped into ninth spot in the Eastern Conference standings behind the Washington Capitals, who rallied to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in overtime on Thursday.
The Caps and Jets each have 72 points, but Washington holds a game in hand and has more regulation and overtime wins (32 to 28)
There’s no time for the Jets to lament on what might have been, as they flew to Calgary after the game for a date with the Flames — battling for a playoff spot of their own in the Western Conference — on Friday night.
The Jets struggles in the back end of games on consecutive nights have been well-documented, but they snapped a string of nine straight losses under those circumstances on Feb. 17 against the Boston Bruins.
It wasn’t all bad news for the Jets on the out-of-town scoreboard though, as the Bruins defeated the Buffalo Sabres and the Florida Panthers were blanked 5-0 by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Those results left the Jets two points behind the Panthers, who have two games in hand and two points up on the Sabres, who are even in games played.
The Lightning, meanwhile, have 69 points and the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are fading but not out of it, have 67.
With the game tied, it was no surprise to see Blake Wheeler score the go-ahead goal for the Jets as he’s been on fire of late. After scoring the game-winner on a breakaway Monday against the Buffalo Sabres, Wheeler drove around Alex Edler and showed great patience before beating Cory Schneider for his 16th of the season. Not bad for a guy who didn’t score his first of the season until his 19th game ... Edler fell down on the Wheeler goal, but redeemed himself a few shifts later when his shot from left point changed direction after hitting Wheeler and sneaking past Ondrej Pavelec, who finished with 42 saves in his 56th appearance ... On the game-winner, Bieksa joined the rush and left a drop pass for Pahlsson, who wired his shot from the slot high to the glove side of Pavelec at 14:17 for just his third goal of the season. It also helped the Canucks snap a two-game losing skid and improve to 42-18-8 on the season.
Wheeler also showed off his blazing speed early in the second, driving past Edler to draw a penalty but he crashed heavily into the post with his ribs and left the ice awkwardly ... Wheeler didn’t miss a shift, but the Canucks managed a shorthanded goal from former Moose Ryan Kesler during the minor penalty. Kesler, who put up 30 goals and 58 points in 78 games with the Moose during the 2004-05 season, entered the game with only one goal in his past 13 games but has now cracked the 20 goal mark for the fifth consecutive season (after putting up a career-high 41 last season) ... As for the goal itself, Toby Enstrom was being chased by Kesler so he chipped the puck off the boards but it went off one of the referees before it reached Alex Burmistrov and right onto the stick of Kesler, who wired a shot through the five-hole of Pavelec ... The Jets managed to even the score before the period was out though as Evander Kane picked up a loose puck along the boards and got a quick shot off that Cory Schneider kicked right onto the stick of Kyle Wellwood, who scored his 15th of the campaign — which is three short of the career high of 18 he scored for the Canucks in 2008-09.
The Canucks had a burr in their saddle in the early going after winnning just once in the past five games (1-2-2) and losing the previous two games on home ice. They’re an up-tempo team and they carried the play in the early going ... One of the 11 former Moose in the Canucks’ lineup, Kesler, had a tremendous chance midway through the period, wiring a one-timer past Pavelec but he couldn’t beat the crossbar ... It was the first of two crossbars Kesler would hit in the contest ... The Jets best chance of the period came with just under two minutes to go. After Tanner Glass and Chris Thorburn worked the cycle down low, Jim Slater snuck free in the slot but his low shot was stopped by the pad of Cory Schneider ... That shift seemed to spark the Jets, who managed a few other quality chances late in the period but were unable to dent the twine in the opening frame.
Speaking of Schneider, going into the season I figured the Jets would be one of the teams who could be in hot pursuit of the former Moose netminder. Given his history with True North, it made sense but that was before seeing Pavelec put up an MVP-type season with the Jets. There’s little doubt Schneider will be a starting goalie in the NHL next season, but we don’t see it being with the Jets. Pavelec is going to be due for a substantial raise and we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the New Jersey Devils made a play for Schneider to pick up the mantle should Marty Brodeur decide to retire ... Brian Burke and the Maple Leafs will likely prepare an offer as well, but I’m not sure they have the assets to get that deal done ... The Panthers are my sleeper team in the Schneider sweepstakes for two reasons: general manager Dale Tallon isn’t scared to make a bold move and Schneider would be an upgrade over Jose Theodore ... Speaking of the Panthers, might they be the type of team that might consider taking on Roberto Luongo’s lengthy contract, should the Canucks decide to make Schneider the starter next season?