WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets opened their final home stand of the season with a 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.
After Mark Scheifele pulled the Jets even with his 26th of the year, 6:55 into the third period, Alex Chiasson scored the go-ahead goal just 1:56 later, giving the Senators their first win in four games and a sweep of the Ottawa-Winnipeg season series.
After the Jets lost control of the puck behind the net, Ryan Dzingel made a pass in front to Chiasson, who chopped it home for the eventual game winner.
“We’re lacking a bit of that 60-minute drive,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “The execution with the puck, the sharpness. I don’t feel that there was a whole lot of sharpness on either side tonight. … We’ll go back and evaluate the players more, individually, on where they can get better, but as a group, we’ll keep working on getting them more rested. I think we’re dealing with some fatigue, both mentally and physically. It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact of what we’re dealing with.”
A great feed from Winnipeg native Mark Stone set up the game’s opening goal just 3:16 into the first period. Zack Smith was the beneficiary of Stone’s handiwork, taking the pass at full speed down the middle before picking the far corner on Michael Hutchinson for his career-high 22nd of the year.
Matt Puempel had a golden opportunity moments later, but he missed high and wide on a clear-cut break. The Sens were the better of the two teams early on, out-chancing the Jets 11-2 in a period with an even number of shots.
“It was a really tough game,” Hutchinson said. “You have to try and stay mentally prepared. It seemed like they had more scoring chances than shots against. You’ve always got to be on your toes and be ready for whatever they throw at you.”
After a quiet but free-flowing front half of the middle frame, Dustin Byfuglien delivered the hit of the season on Stone, obliterating the local boy with a squeaky clean open-ice hit. Stone, who looked up at the very last moment, had just taken a pass at centre, but couldn’t avoid the collision, running head-on into a 6-foot-5, 260-pound wall.
Thankfully, Stone got up under his own power, but was forced from the game and did not return with a chest injury.
“That was a big hit. That was probably the biggest hit I’ve ever seen in person,” Hutchinson said. “That definitely gave us some momentum.”
“You wonder how a guy can come back from it, but he did,” Maurice added.
“Good for him.”
On partial break past the 10-minute mark, Mika Zibanejad beat Hutchinson with a quick shot five-hole, but it struck the base of the post on the opposite side.
Shots favoured the Senators 11-10 after two.
After recording a combined three points (2G, 1A), 15 shots and 12 chances the other night in Philadelphia, the Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers line went to work in the third. One-on-one with Ottawa defenceman Marc Methot, Wheeler chased down a loose puck, button-hooked at the top of the circle and fed Scheifele at the far side. No. 55 made no mistake, firing a shot low, glove side on Sens goalie Andrew Hammond.
With the goal, Scheifele is now on a five-game point streak, while the assist gives Wheeler points in six straight.
“He committed to working on the things he needs to,” Maurice said. “It’s a different league when you play against the other team’s best players, and Mark’s becoming one of those kind of guys offensively. Clearly that line wasn’t what he hoped for and expected tonight, but found a way to tie the game. Didn’t have a lot of room to make the play, but (they) made the play.”
The Jets pushed for the equalizer and had a great chance late, but Drew Stafford’s one-timer went off Scheifele’s leg and wide of the open cage.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com