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Avalanche build big lead, hang on to defeat Jets

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

DENVER, Colorado – In the words of Head Coach Paul Maurice, the Winnipeg Jets "gave what they needed to give."

It just wasn’t enough.

Twenty-four hours after tying a franchise record for the fewest shots allowed in a single game (15), they were unable to keep the momentum going, dropping a 5-3 decision to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center.

The Jets made a valiant effort, getting it back to a single shot after facing 3-0 and 4-2 deficits, but they couldn’t pot the equalizer.

Blake Comeau, Gabriel Landeskog, Carl Soderberg, Chris Wagner and Matt Duchene (empty net) scored for the Avalanche, while Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Jacob Trouba tallied for the Jets.

Michael Hutchinson stopped 20 of 24.

“I don’t think we were casual about our game, we just couldn’t get it going,” Maurice said. “(The Avalanche) skated as hard as they could and they played as hard as they could and we couldn’t catch up.”

With the shots even at 11 apiece, the Jets found themselves in a hole at the first intermission.

The Avalanche opened the scoring at 6:35 as Comeau stole the puck from Adam Pardy in the neutral zone, skated in alone and made no mistake burying the breakaway shot, picking the top left corner.

They extended the lead with 8:59 to play in the period as the puck caromed off the end boards and right to Landeskog, who – uncovered at the goalmouth – hoisted a fluttering backhand over the goalie’s right shoulder.

“We didn’t have the legs that we needed to compete at that level in the first period,” Maurice said. “It wasn’t a lopsided period, but we gave up a couple scoring chances and they scored on them.”

Unfortunately for the Jets, the front half of the middle frame didn’t play out much better.

Mere seconds after thwarting a Nathan MacKinnon breakaway, Hutchinson was tasked with another Av gliding in alone. Deking to his backhand, Soderberg found just enough room short side to make it a 3-0 game at 5:58.

But the Jets weren’t going away. At 9:05, Trouba’s long bomb from the right point pinballed off a stick, off Ladd and in, cutting the deficit to two.

Game on.

The Jets pulled to within one with one of the prettiest goals of the season – a shorthanded marker – at 13:37. Speeding up the near side, Alexander Burmistrov delivered a beautiful pass to Wheeler, who was breaking down the middle. In alone, he potted the backhander, giving him nine on the year for a team-leading 25 points.

With No. 26 netting a pair, the Jets now have five shorthanded goals this season.

“You’re going to have periods where the other team outplays you and you’ve got to find a way to get back in the game. I thought we did that in the second period,” Ladd said. “Getting it to 3-2, obviously you’re feeling pretty good heading into the third period. Even at 4-3, it felt pretty calm on the bench. You’re going to play in tight games and you’ve got to find a way to win those.”

Wagner put the Avalanche back up by two early in the third with a shot from the half wall, bouncing it off a defender and over the sprawling netminder.

“It’s real deflating,” Adam Lowry said sporting the scars of a second-period fight with Jarome Iginla. “Our line’s out there and it’s the job of the fourth line not to get scored on. That’s back-to-back games now where we’ve had that happen in the third period. We were disappointed that we were out there for that one.

“It’s a tough way to lose.”

Trouba’s goal at 10:54 made it a one-goal game once again, as he spun off a defender at the point, drove into the slot and uncorked a beautiful shot top shelf.

The Jets pushed with the extra-attacker in the final minute-and-a-half, but they couldn’t sink the tying goal.

“You’re down a goal, get a great chance to tie the game at the end, but we just didn’t have enough to push through it,” Maurice said.

– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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