GLENDALE, AZ - It was like bad case of déjà vu.
With a chance to redeem themselves after their most disappointing effort of the season, the Winnipeg Jets looked no better early on in the first of a three-game road trip, surrendering four first-period goals en route to a 4-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena.
For the second straight game, Connor Hellebuyck was given the hook after allowing three goals on only a handful of shots early in the opening frame. In Wednesday's loss to the Montreal Canadiens, he allowed three on seven shots. Tonight? Three on six.
Michael Hutchinson finished the game, stopping 22 of 23 shots in relief, including a Tobias Rieder breakaway that could have iced it midway through the second period.
Shawn Matthias, Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler supplied the offence for Winnipeg.
After the game, the Jets held a closed-door meeting that lasted more than 15 minutes.
"It's important that that happens," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "At the end of [the day], it's important they stay together, because you don't want an empty room after a loss."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
To their credit, the Jets had a strong second and third, and were decidedly the better team in those final 40 minutes, but by then the damage had been done. After Stuart cut the deficit to 4-2 early in the third period, Wheeler made it a one-goal game on a great redirection in front after the Jets pulled the goalie for an extra attacker.
Overall, the Jets outshot the Coyotes 28-18 in the final two periods, and 37-29 overall.
"We can be better in all the small areas of the game, but they never quit," Maurice said. "Can we be better? Sure. Better performances, individually, out of people? Yeah. But they didn't quit. They kept competing, kept fighting to the very end and that means a lot right now."
Matthias opened the scoring 3:43 into the game, but despite the strong start, the Jets heeding advice to work "their asses off" in response Wednesday's defeat, it was all downhill from there.
Video: WPG@ARI: Wheeler redirects Ehlers' shot past Smith
The Coyotes replied on their first shot of the game just 1:07 later as the red-hot Brandon Perlini made the Jets pay dearly for a turnover at the offensive blue line. With speed down the right side, Perlini rounded the defence and fired a quick shot high over Hellebuyck's left shoulder for his fifth of the year.
Perlini, who spent the bye week with the Coyotes' AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners, recorded a hat trick this past Tuesday against the Manitoba Moose, and now has four goals in his last five NHL games.
But while the fans were still settling back in their seats after the latest round of celebration, the home team went back to work and put up another one.
Jamie McGinn made it a 3-1 game with a redirection at 10:41 before Perlini's power-play goal - a rebound at the side of the net - put the Jets in all sorts of trouble at 14:45.
That's the way the score remained until the third period when the Jets added two to come within a goal.
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
"After that first one, we got off to a good start and were just trying to get going again, and we tried to get that one back a little too much, got a little too aggressive on the offensive side of things," Wheeler said.
Despite all that went south in a dreadful opening period, the Jets had plenty of time to show some pride and work themselves back in the game and potentially even the score late in the third period.
"Not the way we wanted to start off this road trip. First period, four goals (against) is pretty rough after giving up seven against Montreal, but we responded (in the second and third periods) pretty well."
Stuart pulled the Jets a little closer at 2:46 of the third. With Matthias creating havoc in the blue paint, the defenceman sifted one through from the top of the left circle, beating Arizona goalie Mike Smith low glove side to make it 4-2.
"It's tough. We've got to start on time," Matthias said. "I thought we did, we had a really good first shift. We scored early and I don't know if we just let off the gas or whatever it was, but we've got to be ready to go tomorrow night. We get to get back at it quickly here, which is good.
"We had a good meeting and we're going to respond well tomorrow."
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com