DENVER, Colorado - It wasn't the opening to a three-game road trip the Winnipeg Jets were hoping for. Nor was it the response they were hoping for after getting away from the rink for two days on Sunday and Monday.
The Colorado Avalanche skated to a 7-1 victory over the Jets on Wednesday to drop Winnipeg's record to 36-20-4. Kyle Connor had the only goal for the Jets in the loss.
The players didn't mince words about the game after the final buzzer sounded.
"I'm going to be looking in the mirror, trying to figure out what I've been doing," said captain Blake Wheeler. I haven't been doing enough, playing well enough, getting this group motivated enough to compete at this level."
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
Despite allowing seven goals, Connor Hellebuyck made a number of saves on high-quality Colorado chances. He finished the night with 39 saves.
The Jets are now 3-4-2 since the start of February and the mixture of frustration and anger came through in the third period, with Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele each dropping the gloves with Mikko Rantanen and Nikita Zadorov respectively. Late in the third, Adam Lowry and Zadorov also got in a tussle.
"It's unacceptable," said Adam Lowry.
"We knew they'd be hungry. They're fighting for a playoff spot. I guess we're fat and comfortable where we're at because the effort wasn't there.
"We have to look at ourselves and know that nothing is given in this league."
After a scoreless first period, penalty trouble for the Jets would lead to opportunity for the Avalanche.
Tyson Jost's shot off the rush was kicked out by Hellebuyck's left leg, but Carl Soderberg was right there to bang home the rebound for his 19th of the season, just as a Tyler Myers roughing penalty expired.
The Avalanche built that lead to 2-0 when a turnover in the Winnipeg zone led to Hellebuyck making a big stop off a shot from the slot. But when the rebound came loose to Hellebuyck's right, Colorado got it back. Seconds later, Matt Nieto sent a pass to cross crease to Rantanen, who made no mistake.
Trailing 2-0 going into the third, Paul Maurice shuffled his lines, putting together a trio of Mathieu Perreault, Wheeler, and Bryan Little. Scheifele played the middle of Jack Roslovic and Connor while Andrew Copp skated with Patrik Laine and Brandon Tanev.
Colorado's power play found the score sheet 59 seconds into third with a Nathan MacKinnon one-timer beating a screened Hellebuyck on the short side.
Video: POSTGAME | Adam Lowry
Eleven seconds later, the Avalanche scored off the rush to extend the lead to 4-0.
"We have to watch this game and look at where our game needs to improve. There are a lot of areas," said Lowry. "Our penalty kill needs to get better still. Our pace, our compete, we have to start moving our feet again. There are so many areas of our game that we've just let go. When we're a slow team we're going to be easy to play against."
The Jets power play would answer back with Connor redirecting a Wheeler pass through the legs of Semyon Varlamov. It needed a review, but the goal would stand.
It was Winnipeg's first power play goal since Feb. 2 a stretch of 21 power plays. It was also the first goal the Avalanche had allowed since late in the third period of their 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday - a span of over five periods.
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
But the momentum was short lived, as Jost converted on his eighth of the campaign to restore Colorado's four-goal lead. Gabriel Landeskog and A.J. Greer scored late to round out the scoring.
That's the way it would finish, as the Jets now look to refocus as the head to Vegas to take on the Golden Knights on Friday night.
"It's a good time for an awakening," said Wheeler. "I think our team needs it. We have a bunch of guys that want to look in the mirror instead of pointing fingers, we'll be alright."