DENVER, CO - From the drop of the puck right through to the end, the Winnipeg Jets were a step or two behind.
The Jets had trouble generating much of anything offensively, as the Colorado Avalanche won battles and were first to pucks at both ends of the rink all afternoon, leading to a 5-2 win at Pepsi Center.
Jarome Iginla had a goal an assist, while Matt Duchene had three helpers to pace the Avs offensively. Adam Lowry scored both goals for the Jets who, with the loss, fall back below .500 after recording their first three-game winning streak of the season.
Ondrej Pavelec stopped 23 of 27 in a losing effort.
"We didn't move our feet and that makes it tough in this league," captain Blake Wheeler said. "The competition is too good when you don't come ready and that's what happens.
"We weren't good enough. They came out determined and put us back on our heels and we just weren't able to get anything going."
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
With the Avalanche holding a one-goal lead entering the third period, Carl Soderberg put the game on ice with an insurance marker at 2:04. Soderberg wired home a one-timer after getting a great feed from Iginla at the top of the circles.
Matt Nieto, who scored earlier in the game as well, found the empty net 38 seconds left.
"We have to be prepared to play different kinds of games," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "We had a difficulty accepting that it just wouldn't be a pretty game, and I thought we slowed our game too much waiting for that to develop. We didn't spend enough time in the offensive zone, which is what we're really good at. We spent too much time then chasing pucks back to our end of the ice with very poor coverage when they got there.
"We had a number of players - a big number - that weren't at their 'A' game, (but) our goaltender was very good, again. We didn't have a whole lot going up front."
The Avalanche had a 2-1 lead and a 14-7 shot advantage after a one-sided opening period.
The Jets, who admittedly had to ratchet up the intensity after a listless opening frame, evened things up with a power-play goal early in the second. Wheeler's initial blast was turned aside by Pickard, but Lowry followed it up with a strong drive to the net, and after winning a battle in the blue paint, he tapped it home for the second of his two goals.
At the other end, Pavelec made a series of incredible saves to keep the Jets in the game when it could (and probably should) have gone sideways, including a stunning around-the-world glove save on a 3-on-1 after the Jets got caught pinching at the offensive blue line.
Video: WPG@COL: Pavelec flashes the leather on Duchene
But Pavelec couldn't do it alone. The Avs took a 3-2 lead at 8:03 as Nieto banged home the rebound after a Patrick Wiercioch blast caromed lively off the end boards.
"We wanted to finish this trip with two points but it wasn't our day today," Pavelec said. "We were still in the game, we could have won it. But we made more mistakes than they did. It wasn't our day but overall it was a good road trip and now we're going home."
Video: POSTGAME | Ondrej Pavelec
The Jets picked up four of a possible six points on the trip, and have won of their last four overall. They'll get a stiff test on Tuesday, however, when they host the division rival Minnesota Wild, who are the best in the West at 33-12-5 for 71 points.
Iginla drew first blood with a power-play goal at 5:27. With Duchene planted in front, Iginla walked off the half wall and fired a shot through traffic, finding the shelf over Pavelec's right shoulder.
It was a tough start for the Jets, who recorded only one of the first nine shots of the game, but a timely goal off a hard-working, third-line shift evened the score just a few minutes later. After winning an offensive-zone faceoff, Lowry took the puck out of the corner and bowled his way to the front of the net before tucking a backhander into the open side.
The goal was Lowry's first in the last 21 games.
On the previous shift, Avalanche forward John Mitchell found himself in alone, but the blocker-side goalpost kept the Jets within a goal.
"From early on it seemed like we were used to and we couldn't generate any speed or get that transition game (going) like we're used to," Lowry said. "Some of that was our doing. We got caught puck watching and standing still a little too much tonight.
"We look at their roster, obviously with their record, I don't think they're where people expected them to be. They have a lot of skill up front and that was evident tonight. We knew it was going to be a quick game and for whatever reason, their speed dictated the game and we weren't able to use our speed to our advantage."
Video: WPG@COL: Lowry banks home a backhander
Jacob Trouba looked to give the Jets a 2-1 lead shortly thereafter, but officials ruled Joel Armia made incidental contact with the goaltender, and the goal was called off. Maurice enacted a coach's challenge, but after a lengthy review, the original call was upheld.
When asked about the challenge after the game, Maurice disagreed with the final assessment.
"I felt that Joel was taking an outside track to the 'tender and he wasn't able to stay out of that contact because of the hit that he took going to it," he explained.
With 5:25 to play, Nathan MacKinnon put the Avalanche back in front. With the fourth out against Colorado's top unit, Winnipeg failed the clear the zone before MacKinnon found a loose puck in front, swiping it home as bodies littered the blue paint.
It was more of the same in the second and third, with the Jets firing only 15 shots in the final two periods, firing only 18 shots for a three-period total of 25 on Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com