PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – Evander Kane
recorded three assists, while Adam Lowry
and Chris Thorburn
each had multi-point nights, but it wasn’t enough as the Winnipeg Jets dropped a 5-3 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Center, halting the team’s winning streak at five.
Brandon Sutter broke a third-period tie with a power-play goal at 7:52, securing victory for the home side.
Thorburn, Lowry and Jacob Trouba scored for the Jets, while Kris Letang led the way for the Penguins, recording five assists in the win.
With the loss, the Jets (27-15-8) remain two points back of the idle St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks for second in the Central Division. The Jets continue to lead the Western Conference Wild Card standings with 60 points, five up on the Calgary Flames.
“We couldn’t get ahead of it,” Jets forward Bryan Little said post-game. “It felt like we were fighting to get into the game for most of it and it was tough to generate a lot of chances. It always is against that team, but especially tonight. It was a really uncomfortable game for our team. We’ve go to be better next game.
“We knew going in it was going to look a little ugly early on. There was going to be some rust on both sides, but they looked sharper from the start and really outplayed us in the first.”
On a play so elegantly engineered by David Perron, Nick Spaling gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 7:09 of the opening period. Driving wide, Perron delivered a beautiful centering pass into the slot, where Spaling – cruising the pipe – beat several to the punch, winning a race for the puck before chipping it past Ondrej Pavelec, who made 26 saves in a losing cause.
Shots on goal favoured the Pens 9-4 after one period of play.
Pavelec was good, facing a number of high-quality scoring chances early on, but his best came late, hot off the stick of journeyman Mark Arcobello. Evading a check and charging the net, Arcobello connected with a glorious diagonal feed from Steve Downie, but Pavelec came up an exceptional pad save to preserve the one-goal deficit.
However, Thorburn was called for hooking on the play, sending the Penguins to the power-play – 1:49 of which was easily killed after carrying over into the middle frame.
Twenty-four seconds after stepping out of the box, Thorburn brought the game back on even terms. On a similar play to Arcobello’s earlier opportunity, Thorburn niftily redirected a cross-seam dish from Adam Lowry, shelving it past Thomas Greiss for the equalizer.
With the goal tonight, Thorburn now has three in his last four games.
“We were able to get a couple leads over the course of the game, but we couldn’t hold on,” Thorburn said. “It’s unfortunate, but we’ve got to move forward.”
Minutes later, the Jets nearly took control on the back of a dominant fourth-line shift from Jim Slater, Matt Halischuk and Anthony Peluso, culminating in a hard, high shot off the crossbar.
Then, following a thunderous hit on Letang, Ben Chiarot stepped up and went toe-to-toe with rookie pivot Zach Sill. Chiarot was declared the victor after landing a series of rights before tumbling to the ice.
With 7:13 remaining in the period, the Jets took their first lead of the night. Chopping a long shot through a maze, off the post and in, Jacob Trouba recorded his fifth of the year and first since returning from injury. Kane, who choreographed it all with a dish back to the point, picked up the primary assist.
“That line was really good,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “Evander Kane’s puck control in the game. … The Trouba goal, especially – great play on that. Good size, a lot of net drive from those guys. I really, really liked their game.”
Added Little: “There were some good moments in that game. Guys really stepped up and had good games. But for the majority of us, we weren’t quite there. It was a tough one.”
But the pesky Penguins did not go away. With just 4.6 seconds left in the period, Downie deposited a rebound after Letang’s initial shot was kicked out at the lip of the crease.
Just 59 seconds into the third, the Jets restored the lead as Lowry’s long-range knuckler fooled Greiss, putting the visitors up 3-2 at a pivotal time in the game.
But the Pens battled back. On a power-play shortly thereafter, Perron shovelled the puck past Pavelec, who was propelled into the net along with it.
After a quick video review, the call on the ice was upheld. Tie game. Again. But not for long.
With Lowry off serving a questionable charging call, Sutter put the Pens in front with a grungy goal in tight before Sutter sealed it with an empty-netter late.
“It’s a disappointing way to lose,” Lowry said. “When you get the lead early in the third period, especially on the road, that’s where you want to be. Unfortunately we took some timely penalties and they capitalized. That was the difference in the game.”
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com