Needing as many wins as possible to stay in the playoff hunt, the Winnipeg Jets laid an egg Thursday night, dropping a 5-2 decision at home to the Ottawa Senators.
After being deadlocked at one goal apiece for 38 straight minutes, the Senators scored three goals in a little more than three minutes in the third period to all but kill the Jets playoff hopes.
Just like in their last outing, the Jets went another lengthy stretch without recording a shot on goal. Showing zero sense of urgency, the Jets went for almost 14 straight minutes without recording a shot in the third period.
“We see it – how talented our group is,” said Jets forward Kyle Connor. “There’s no question about that. I think it’s just being the willingness to commit and I think we were a little disjointed tonight.
“It’s a very frustrating game for sure.”
Connor scored his 40th goal of the season in the defeat, becoming the first Jets player since the team moved to Winnipeg to score 40 goals and 40 assists in the same season. His goal also extended his point streak to nine games.
Nikolaj Ehlers had his five-game goal streak come to a halt.
The Jets loss, combined with a shootout win by the Dallas Stars, leaves the Jets five points out of a playoff spot, and Dallas still has two games in hand.
While the Jets had everything to play for, the Sens were just playing spoiler, already long out of the playoff race.
“They put pucks to the goal line, they got in and forechecked,” said interim head coach Dave Lowry. “We tried to make plays at the blue line and turned pucks over, and we ended up spending too much time in our zone.
“But the biggest thing is we turned too many pucks over in the neutral zone, and didn’t allow us to get any sustained zone time. And we seemed to be one and done. There was a lot of pucks that were inside we didn’t get to early.”
After back-to-back victories, the Jets failed once again to win three straight games. They haven’t won three in a row since early January.
“Obviously, very frustrating,” said Ehlers. “This time of year, the position that we’re in – you want to get on a run.
“I think we played into how they want to play. And we didn’t play the hockey that we need to play to win games.”
After taking more than six minutes to register a shot on goal, the Jets found the back of the net first thanks to a bit of a weird one.
Josh Morrissey carried the puck down toward the corner in Ottawa’s end and directed a pass to Blake Wheeler in front of the net, but before it got there, goalie Anton Forsberg redirected it into the net from the harsh angle.
The goal was the 10th of the season for Morrissey, the first time in his career he has broken double-digits in goals in a season.
Winnipeg held onto the lead until the 14:06 mark when Ottawa captain Brady Tkachuk tipped a point shot past Connor Hellebuyck, ensuring the Jets goaltender would not record a shutout for the second straight start.
The Jets held an 11-8 edge in shots after one, leading into a second frame where neither side generated much in terms of high-quality scoring chances. Ottawa outshot the Jets 11-7 in the period but the score remained 1-1 heading to the third.
The score remained tied until the 12:25 mark of the third when Tyler Ennis finished off a 2-on-1 into a yawning cage.
Less than a minute later, Brenden Dillon was called for the first penalty of the night and the Sens made him pay. Colin White got the puck at the side of the net and tucked it past Hellebuyck for the backbreaker that sent some fans to the exits early.
Connor Brown left no doubt in anyone’s mind that Ottawa would win the game 59 seconds later when he was the benefactor of a defensive breakdown, scoring his 10th of the season to make it 4-1.
With nothing to lose at that point, the Jets decided to pull the goalie for an extra attacker and Connor pulled Winnipeg within two with 2:54 to go.
But any hope of a long-shot comeback was dashed when Tkachuk scored his second of the night into the empty net with 1:16 to go.
Hellebuyck made 28 saves in the loss, allowing three or more goals for the 12th time in his last 13 starts, though it would be unfair to pin this loss on him. The players in front of him generated very little offence.
Former Jet Anton Forsberg made 22 saves in the victory.
St. Malo’s Travis Hamonic made his Sens debut after a recent trade and appeared in his 700th career NHL game.
The Jets will get back at it Friday night when Patrik Laine and the Columbus Blue Jackets make a visit. The pregame show begins on 680 CJOB at 5 p.m., with the puck dropping shortly after 7 p.m.
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