DENVER, Colorado - It was the start the Winnipeg Jets were looking for, but not the finish.
Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers scored first period goals to build a 2-0 lead over the Colorado Avalanche, but the Avalanche stormed back, tying the game in the third period before Erik Johnson scored in overtime to hand the Jets a 3-2 loss.
Winnipeg gained a single point in the standings, but fell to second in the Central Division due to Nashville's victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
The loss hurts in that regard - but Ehlers felt the team played much better than in Tuesday's loss to Minnesota.
"We got some of our identity back and that's what we need to keep working on," said Ehlers.
"Everyone was skating together today. That's how we got first touches, that's how we got pucks to the net. We were turning down low, we were getting pucks to our defencemen, they were getting pucks through. We were playing Winnipeg Jets hockey we know how to play."
Video: WPG@COL: Scheifele cleans up in front to open scoring
The Jets came close to building the lead, or even retaking it once the Avalanche had scored to tie the game in the third.
Blake Wheeler hit a post. Patrik Laine did the same. Even as the final seconds ticked down, the Jets power play came within inches of spoiling Colorado's playoff spot clinching party.
But it wasn't to be.
"We're a post away from winning that game," said Scheifele.
"In our mind, we can't look at it as a negative. We have to look at it as we have to capitalize when we have those chances. Give credit to (Philipp) Grubauer, he made some big saves."
Video: WPG@COL: Ehlers buries rebound from doorstep
The Jets (46-30-5) opened the scoring when Dustin Byfuglien's one-timer from the top of the circle missed the net, but bounced in front off the end boards. Kyle Connor played it to the net, where Scheifele jammed away for his 37th of the season.
The goal withstood a review and a challenge for goaltender interference to put the Jets up 1-0.
"We came out great," said Scheifele.
"We were happy with most of our game. We got away from it at times and they got their chances. They got their odd-man breaks. But for the most part, we have to take the positives out of it."
Another point shot produced Winnipeg's second goal of the period. Jacob Trouba's blast from the point was tipped by Ehlers in front of Philipp Grubauer and while the Avalanche goaltender made the initial stop, Ehlers whacked home the rebound for his 20th of the campaign.
"I really liked our start. Then it turned into a good battle right to the end. We had chances, they had chances," said Maurice.
"It's a real frustrating way to end when you crack a post and you have two really good chances at the end to win it. But the compete was right."
Video: WPG@COL: Hellebuyck extends pad to rob Soderberg
Ehlers played with Kevin Hayes and Mathieu Perreault as part of a line-up shuffle that saw three lines change. The others saw Jack Roslovic and Par Lindholm (inserted into the line-up due to Brandon Tanev's injury), as well as Laine with Bryan Little and Andrew Copp.
"Perreault is a guy that as a team you can always count on. He works hard every single shift. You could see that out there tonight. He's an easy player to play with," said Ehlers.
"Hayes is a smart player, makes fantastic plays and gets pucks to the net. We did a lot of good things today."
Just over five minutes into the second period, Colorado's Tyson Barrie came down the right wing and went top corner on the short side on Connor Hellebuyck to cut the Jets lead to 2-1.
Maurice challenged for an offside, but to no avail, the goal stood for Barrie's 14th of the season.
In the third, the Avalanche pulled even. The Jets killed off a Kyle Connor cross-checking penalty, but seconds after it expired, Carl Soderberg tipped a Tyson Jost shot past Hellebuyck.
With time winding down, the Jets power play (which finished 0-for-3 on the night) came close to putting the Jets ahead. When regulation time ended, the Avalanche gained the point they needed to clinch the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Shortly after Winnipeg's power play expired in the overtime period, Johnson found some open ice and beat Hellebuyck to seal the 3-2 win for the home side.
Next up, the Jets head to Arizona to take on the Coyotes to close out the regular season schedule on Saturday night.