Video: POSTGAME | JetsTV Road Report
DENVER, Colorado - They deserved better.
Unfortunately in this league, on any night when a goalie (or goalies) are on their game, as the Avalanche tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier were on this one, deserve's got nothin' to do with it.
Considering where they were 20 miles from the finish line, it's a valuable point earned.
After surging out of the gates with 13 goals in their first three games out of the Christmas break, nothing came easy for the Jets on Tuesday as they suffered a tough, but hard-fought 3-2 OT defeat at the hands of their Central Division rivals, ending a three-game winning streak.
Erik Johnson scored the winning goal with only eight seconds left in overtime, firing a shot blocker side on Connor Hellebuyck on a breakaway to seal victory for the home side.
The final shot tally favoured Winnipeg 44-26, making this the ninth straight game the Jets have fired more than 35 shots on goal.
"I'm sick of these overtime losses," said Hellebuyck, who finished with 23 saves. "I know this isn't how the playoffs are going to go, but I'd like to have these points."
Video: POSTGAME | Connor Hellebuyck
The Avs' top pair of Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen supplied all the offence in regulation as the duo combined for four points, while Blake Wheeler scored twice in the third period to rally the Jets from a 2-0 deficit and send the game to overtime.
Head Coach Paul Maurice liked the fight in his group, but thought they could have done a better job making the most of the lopsided zone time.
"Eighty-nine shot attempts or something silly like that - 30 of them blocked. You can't have that many shots blocked. That's a real sign you're not moving your feet quick enough," he said. "But, 89 shot attempts means we were in the right end of the ice. It wasn't easy for us; it wasn't smooth. They did a good job blocking shots."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
Earlier in overtime, Dustin Byfuglien had a great chance to end it with a clear-cut breakaway, but his bid for the five-hole somehow stayed out, beating the goalie but getting a piece of the pad on the way through to keep the game knotted.
A few minutes later, an ill-advised dive at the blue line turned the puck over and sent Johnson in alone.
"Chances, you're going to get chances. Three-on-three, everybody gets chances," said Maurice, whose club falls to 0-6 in the extra period this year. "We have so much risk in our game in places that we don't need it three-on-three. There's probably some over-confidence. You get a point on the road and are feeling good about yourself, but we've got to be a little more patient, I think."
Trailing by two entering the third, the Jets got themselves back in the game with a PPG courtesy of the captain, ending an impressive streak by Avalanche that saw them kill off 36 straight power plays.
Laine stepped in off the right circle and a snapped a quick shot that was tipped home by Wheeler at the 47-second mark, cutting the deficit in half with nearly a full period to play.
Video: WPG@COL: Wheeler tips Laine's shot under Bernier
While he wasn't overly busy Hellebuyck made a gargantuan pad save off Patrick Nemeth on a 2-on-1 midway through the period. Nemeth took a pass from Carl Soderberg and cranked a one-timer from the high slot, but Hellebuyck lunged across and got a toe on it to keep the Jets in the game.
That save proved critical, as in the dying moments of the game - with Hellebuyck out for the extra attacker - Wheeler jumped on a loose puck in front and shoveled it home to tie the game with only 32.2 seconds left.
Video: WPG@COL: Wheeler ties game late with his second goal
Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine picked up the assists, both doing great work to work to free the puck loose before the captain bowled his way to the blue paint.
"You want to win every game, but down 2-0 going into the third, that's some pretty good fight out of our group," Wheeler said. "The shots would indicate we spent a lot of time in their zone and it was good to finally get that equalizer."
After a scoreless opening frame that saw the Jets carry a 12-8 lead on the shot clock, the Avalanche opened the scoring at 7:45 of the second period. On a delayed penalty, and with the Jets' fourth line caught on a long shift, Rantanen made a slick centering pass to Landeskog, who corralled the bouncing puck in front and kicked it across, backdoor to MacKinnon for the tap in.
The Avs took a two-goal lead just 3:53 later as the top line went back to work, cycling the puck deep in Winnipeg territory. MacKinnon took it off the near boards and pulled a beautiful toe drag on Joel Armia before dishing off to Rantanen, who rifled a one-timer past Hellebuyck from the bottom of the glove-side circle.
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
MacKinnon continues to rack up the points, tallying his team-leading 17th of the year and 48th point, giving him - for the time being, anyway - sole possession of fifth in the NHL scoring race.
Shortly after the goal, Avalanche goalie Varlamov exited the game and was replaced by Bernier between the pipes.
Unfortunately for the Jets, that did little to spark the offence, as the power-play took to the ice for a third time in the game but was unable to generate a goal despite their best efforts in peppering the cold, previously untested netminder.
The Jets outshot their Central Division counterparts 16-5 in the second for a two-period advantage of 28-13.
Tonight, the Jets officially reached the midway point of the season and will carry a 23-11-7 record for a Central Division-leading 53 points into the second half of the campaign.
Video: POSTGAME | Bryan Little
"It's one of those games where we didn't play our best, but managed to stay in it and get a point," said Bryan Little, who had two shots in just over 22 minutes of ice time. "It would have been nice to win it in overtime, but we showed a lot of character coming back and at least getting a point out of it."
"I think we're pretty happy with where we're at [in the season]. Obviously you want to get better and work on things, and it's tough when you're missing one of your biggest pieces with an injury, but we're just trying to get better.
"There's a lot of hockey left but we're happy with where we're at."
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com