WINNIPEG - For the coach, it was almost impossible to believe how his team - one that produced a defensive masterpiece the other night vs. Calgary - could be involved such a collapse only 48 hours later.
"We were (expletive) from the drop of that first puck right through to the very end," said Paul Maurice in a brief, but passionate post-game press conference.
"We'll deal with it. We're not sweeping this under the rug. We'll make sure that we appreciate the value of playing in the National Hockey League and playing in a game at home, the cost that every NHL game demands and the willingness to pay that price.
"There's no reason for that tonight. We don't play like that. The games that we're beat, we don't play like that."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
Phillip Danault and Artturi Lehkonen scored two goals apiece, while three others had multi-point efforts as the Montreal Canadiens handed the Jets a 7-4 loss to close out a two-game home stand.
Mark Scheifele (2), Mathieu Perreault and Bryan Little supplied the offence for Winnipeg. Connor Hellebuyck was pulled late in the first period after allowing three goals on seven shots. Michael Hutchinson finished the game, stopping 19 of 23, and suffering the loss.
Drew Stafford tallied two assists in the defeat.
The Jets (20-21-3) will look to get back in the win column on Friday night as they kick off a three-game road trip against the Arizona Coyotes.
The Canadiens were all over the Jets in a sloppy second period, turning a 3-2 lead into a commanding 5-2 rout as the recently recalled Sven Andrighetto and the hero of the game, the 23-year-old Danault, scored 3:38 apart to bury the home side.
Andrighetto's goal - his first of the year - 53 seconds in restored a cushion the visitors once had about 20 minutes earlier. Left wide open in front, the winger drove home a Brian Flynn feed at the lip of the blue paint just 53 seconds into the middle frame.
Danault padded the lead at 4:31 as he gathered speed in the neutral zone, blew past Dustin Byfuglien before cutting to the net and ripping a shot high over the glove of Hutchinson.
"3-2, it's not an ideal score for us in the first period, but we were still in the hockey game," captain Blake Wheeler said. "Even going into the third, we felt we had an opportunity to come back. … Every time we came back it just seemed like it was going in our net. We gave up a little bit too much."
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
Scheifele pulled the Jets a bit closer with a power-play goal less than a minute later, slamming the puck into the open side for his second of the night and 19th of the year. Nikolaj Ehlers recorded the primary assist with a great pass across the diamond, extending his point streak to five straight games. The 20-year-old now has nine goals and 14 points in his last 11 games overall.
Winnipeg manufactured only three shots on goal in the period.
"It's tough," Stafford said. "When they get one, you have to have a response and unfortunately when we started getting going, they got one against us. There were certain breaks going their way and some miscues, some sloppy play on our part. Once the score starts going up, they start capitalizing on their chances and we just didn't have a good enough response."
Lehkonen salted it with a pair in the front half of the third before Little scored off a great feed from Stafford at 10:06.
Video: WPG Recap: Scheifele pots a pair in 7-4 loss to Habs
But the damage was truly done early.
Montreal scored twice in the first five minutes to put the home team in a deep hole - one it just couldn't get out of.
Danault drew first blood only 57 seconds in, banging home a rebound at the side of the net after the Jets failed to corral the bouncing puck in tight. Hellebuyck had trouble with an Alexander Radulov shot, leaving the rebound right out in front of the net, where Danault won a battle and knocked it home on the backhand.
Flynn put the Canadiens up by a pair just over three minutes later as he took a pass at the top of the far circle and rifled one up high, handcuffing Hellebuyck and having it trickle in after getting a piece of the 'tender's left shoulder.
Undeterred after a couple of tough plays in the D zone, the Jets made a game of it at 6:07 as the top line went to work. Scheifele finished off a pretty give-and-go with Stafford, who delivered a great feed from behind the net to give the pivot a clean look from close range.
Back-to-back Montreal penalties gave the Jets a chance for the tie with a 51-second 5-on-3, but the power play passed without incident.
Perreault tied things up off a great feed from Blake Wheeler at 12:58, roofing a shot from the bottom of the circle to give the Quebec native his fourth of the campaign. The goal came just moments after Dustin Byfuglien, who drove hard to the net earlier that shift, sailed a shot through traffic and off the base of the goalpost.
Tomas Plekanec - who missed the game-day skate with the flu - put Montreal back in front with an unassisted marker at 14:01, driving a shot upstairs after a jumping on a loose puck between the dots.
Hellebuyck was pulled this point after allowing all three goals and looking shaky on the few shots in between.
"I didn't feel any different. I don't think I was fighting it," Hellebuyck said. "I just felt I made two mistakes, and had some bad luck on the first one. But I can't make those kind of mistakes that early in the game."
It wasn't just him. According to Maurice, all 20 players must shoulder the blame for this kind of performance.
"The whole game from the goaltender to every guy up front. … We didn't play well enough to win that game."
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com