WINNIPEG - No loss feels good, especially at this time of the season.
But if there is anything the Winnipeg Jets can take from the 2-1 setback to the Boston Bruins, it's a template of how they need to play over the final 30 games of the regular season to improve their standing in the playoff race.
Winnipeg outshot the Bruins 38-25, threw 21 body checks - the same amount as the visitors - and won 53 per cent of the face-offs.
They just couldn't get what they wanted most - two points.
"I'm proud of how our hockey team played tonight," said head coach Paul Maurice.
"That's a game you can win with. Whether the players that played in that game can develop that style of effort, that style of hockey, that compete level - whether you're healthy or not - you have a chance to win hockey games like that."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
In a game that saw the two teams combine for 74 penalty minutes, six fighting majors, two instigator penalties, and two 10-minute misconducts, special teams proved to be the difference.
Both of Boston's goals - off the sticks of Patrice Bergeron in the first period and Jake DeBrusk in the third - came on the man advantage.
Meanwhile, the Jets came up empty on six power plays, including 1:54 of five-on-three time. They did everything right - they just couldn't beat Tuukka Rask.
"I don't think you can physically generate more chances on a power play than we did tonight," Wheeler said, referencing the 12 shots on goal the Jets had on the man advantage.
"There are only five guys on the ice for us and I think each guy had one or two Grade 'A' chances. Players that typically bury those. It just wasn't our night."
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
The Jets (25-23-4) got the start they were looking for 6:06 into the opening period. Nikolaj Ehlers rushed into the Boston zone and flew up the left-wing boards and around the Bruins net. He spotted Patrik Laine behind the Boston defenders and threaded a perfect seam pass to the Finnish sniper, who made no mistake for his 18th of the season.
Laine finished the night with 14 total shot attempts in 22:36 of ice time.
"We had more than enough chances to bury, myself included. I had a couple crossbars, a post. I had a couple chances but couldn't score," said Laine.
"It's hard to win if you only score one goal."
Video: POSTGAME | Patrik Laine
It stayed that way until the final minute of the first period, when Bergeron cashed in on a five-on-three Bruins power play, beating Laurent Brossoit on the stick side from the right circle.
The second period saw the bulk of the penalty minutes, with a total of 70 coming in that middle frame. No goals were scored, but the majority of the fisticuffs resulted from players on both teams standing up for teammates.
"Those are they types of guys you want to play with," Wheeler said of teammates Ehlers, Neal Pionk, Gabriel Bourque, and Luca Sbisa - all of whom got into tussles on this night.
"(Boston was) running away with the league to start and it hasn't been going so easy for them lately. They want to get on track. We've been off track here for a while, so we're trying to get on track," said Wheeler. "There was a little desperation out of both teams. It was a good hockey game."
Video: POSTGAME | Andrew Copp
Boston would again find twine on the power play in the third period to take their first lead of the game. DeBrusk banged home a pass from David Pastrnak just outside of Brossoit's crease for his 16th of the season.
The reason DeBrusk was able to get open? Andrew Copp's dangling skate lace caught onto the achilles tendon protection on the back of the skate of Anthony Bitetto. The two fell to the ice, leaving DeBrusk free and clear.
"I've watched hockey for many years. I've never seen that," said Laine. "That's just apparently how it goes. That was an unfortunate play. That's it."
Video: POSTGAME | Laurent Brossoit
Now the Jets have to move on from the tough loss, but bring the template with them into Saturday's tilt with the Central Division leading St. Louis Blues.
"Tonight was a special effort. We have to make it an average effort," said Maurice. "We have to get to that point. That's not easy to do."
In addition to the loss, the Jets also suffered another injury, as Mathieu Perreault left the game with an upper-body injury late in the second and didn't return.
Maurice didn't have an update following the game, but expected to have a better idea of the forward's status prior to Saturday's game against the St. Louis Blues.