GLENDALE, Arizona – With thousands of boisterous, blue and white-clad partygoers on hand, the Winnipeg Jets wanted to end the year on a high.
But a pair of power-play goals – including the late game-winner by Oliver Ekman-Larsson – spoiled the fun Thursday in a 4-2 Jets loss at Gila River Arena.
Adam Lowry scored twice, while Connor Hellebuyck made 17 saves in the defeat.
“You can’t take the penalties that we took. You just can’t,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “You can (complain) about the calls all you want, but… We took the penalties, we lost the game, we were far better than they were for most of the night. That’s the National Hockey League. “
The Jets opened the scoring at 3:31 as Lowry jammed in the rebound from an Alexander Burmistrov shot off the rush. Lowry, who was recalled from the Manitoba Moose on Dec. 27, scored twice on the night for nine points in 34 games this season.
The Coyotes levelled the score at 9:28 as the captain, Shane Doan, buried a shot on the give-and-go with Max Domi, becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing Dale Hawerchuk with 380 career tallies.
Doan, of course, began his illustrious career in Winnipeg, and in a great show of support, nearly all of the Jets fans rose to their feet to salute the 39-year-old.
Tobias Rieder had a glorious chance on a yawning cage late, but he pulled it wide with three seconds left, leaving the game tied after 20 minutes.
The Jets – who went 0-for-2 on the power play – were all over the ‘Yotes 5-on-5 in the opening period, firing 22 shot attempts (more than double that of the home side), while registering 12 scoring chances.
Through two, the Jets extended to a 29-10 advantage in shots, but Coyotes goalie Louis Domingue was singlehandedly keeping the game deadlocked.
“Credit to him,” Lowry said. “He had a strong game, but we can work on a few things. When you fire that many shots, if you get some more traffic maybe we’re able to generate more rebounds and pot a couple.”
With Andrew Ladd off serving a cross checking penalty, Viktor Tikhonov swept home a loose puck in tight, giving the Coyotes their first lead at 1:18 of the third.
“We put ourselves in that position,” Ladd said. “We created a lot and carried the play for the most part. At the end of the day, we didn’t come up with the two points and a big reason (why) was those two penalties.”
Moments later, with the defence backing in, Anthony Duclair rang one off the crossbar. For a while it was looking grim, but the Jets weren’t finished. Lowry brought the game back on even terms with an emotional goal at 7:45, capitalizing on a Domingue turnover and rifling it high, over the shoulder of the displaced netminder.
“It’s a little unexpected. You’re coming up the middle of the ice and he was trying to catch us sleeping, but it found me on the tape,” Lowry said. For the most part we’re happy with the way we played. There were large stretches of the game where we controlled the play. We were fast, on the body and were creating turnovers. Sometimes the special teams are the difference.”
But the Jets had trouble staying out of the box, and for the second straight time, it cost them. Oliver Ekman-Larsson made quick work of a Tyler Myers infraction, sailing a wrister through traffic and past Hellebuyck to put the Coyotes back in front with 7:25 remaining.
“It doesn’t really matter what my opinion is on it. I shouldn’t have thrown my arm out there,” Myers said. “It was a bad penalty to take, I’ll be the first to admit it. Can’t do that.”
Doan sealed it with an empty netter at 19:45.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com