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Jets open road trip with loss in Columbus

"There's a lot of fight in this group"

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

COLUMBUS - In the last four games, the Winnipeg Jets have fired 153 shots at the opposition's net.

Only four have found their way in and - unfortunately for the Jets - none of them came on Wednesday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus goaltender Elvis Merzlikins stopped all 36 shots that came his way, as the Jets fell 3-0 and are now winless in four games.

"We're in one, offensively, We've got good shooters missing nets on real opportunities. There's going to be a stretch where the puck doesn't go for you and you're banging it around," said head coach Paul Maurice. " I'm not worried about how are we ever going to score another goal, it's there. But we can't have a defensive game like that, coupled with our offensive struggles right now."

Three Jets had five shots on goal in the defeat, those being Andrew Copp, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Kyle Connor - who led the National Hockey League in shots on goal coming into the night.

All three had looks that on any other night could have lit the lamp.

Copp had rebound chances on the power play. Connor had a one-timer blast from the slot blocked. Ehlers had a cross-ice one-timer that went off the pad of a sprawling Merzlikins. 

That's just how it seems to be going for the Jets at the moment.

"You can't let it creep in too much but we had some good chances and he made some good saves, but I feel like we can always test him more," said Copp. "We're usually really good at keeping our energy on the bench and talking and keeping that intensity up. It's something that we go to get back to." 

An unfortunate bounce in the offensive zone for the Jets led to the home side scoring the first goal. A pass back to Josh Morrissey at the point hopped over the defenceman's stick, starting a Columbus two-on-one the other way. Max Domi flipped a pass to Gregory Hofmann, who finished the play off with his second goal of the season, just beating a fully extended Connor Hellebuyck.

Even as the Jets push to find offence, Ehlers didn't feel the bench sag after the first goal.

"There's a lot of fight in this group and I think we showed that out there tonight again, even though we didn't score," said Ehlers. "If you get down 1-0, you can't get down on yourself. You've got to brush it off and get ready for the next shift."

The next goal wouldn't come until the third, when a Riley Nash cross-checking penalty put the Jets shorthanded. Zach Werenski took advantage, snapping his fifth goal of the season to put Columbus up 2-0. The power play marker came 6:49 into the third period from the right circle and was the third game in the last five that the Jets had allowed a goal on the penalty kill.

Special teams was a theme on this night, as the Jets power play finished 0-for-4, and is now 1-for-22 since November 6.

"I don't think we have the speed to generate clean looks like we would like to," Maurice said of the power play. "But there's enough around the net laying there, and there was again tonight, that we've got to get on those pucks."

To try and find some more offence, Maurice switched up his top two lines. He had Copp with Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, and Ehlers with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor.

Though Maurice admitted he didn't see enough of a change to say those lines would stick together past the final buzzer.

Before that buzzer, Columbus sealed it with an empty netter from Andrew Peeke, a wrist shot from over 150 feet away from the Jets net.

Now 9-6-4, the Jets continue the road trip on Friday night in Minnesota.

Despite the early season adversity, the confidence in the room remains strong.

"With that said, (there is) a sense of urgency to get it back rolling again," said Copp. "We'll have a good practice tomorrow. We'll be ready to go for Friday."  

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