OTTAWA, Ontario – As the game clock ticked on, one thing became clear: Win or lose, the Winnipeg Jets were going to play it out in the only way they know how.
"We just kept working," Dustin Byfuglien said following a masterful effort on the back end.
"We don't stop."
The Jets rallied from a 2-0 deficit to earn a valuable single point, but it wasn’t enough to steal two, as the Ottawa Senators – after a scoreless 3-on-3 overtime period – prevailed 3-2 in a shootout Thursday at Canadian Tire Centre.
Byfuglien tied the game just 26 seconds into the third period, while Andrew Ladd rounded out the scoring for the Jets. Michael Hutchinson made 25 saves.
Cody Ceci and Bobby Ryan scored for the Senators in regulation, while Ryan, Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad all tallied in the shootout.
The Jets were all over the Sens in the third period, out-shooting them 11-1 in the opening 10 minutes, but were unable to cash the go-ahead goal.
With the shootout loss, the Jets finish their four-game road trip with a 2-1-1 record and are now 8-4-2 overall on the year.
“Last night’s [game] was a hard, hard grinding game, and I think that’s why we got out of the gates a little slow,” Head Coach Maurice said. “It wasn’t pretty or perfect, but we were good in the third. It’s good to see us come back and get a point. You don’t like losing in a shootout, but we didn’t lose the hockey game, so it’s a good trip for us.
"We like our game – we don’t love it, but we’re getting better every night."
Ceci opened the scoring midway through the first with a knuckler from the right point. The puck may have deflected off the stick of Toby Enstrom en route, but either way, the fluttering shot fooled Hutchinson, putting the Sens up 1-0 at 10:01. Jean-Gabriel Pageau recorded the only assist after winning the draw in the offensive zone, setting up the defenceman’s hurried shot through traffic.
Andrew Ladd had the best chance for the Jets, but his point-blank try – courtesy Pageau – was turned aside by Craig Anderson, who stopped nine shots in the opening frame.
Hutchinson was the Jets’ best player early in the second, but the number of odd-man rushes against eventually caught up to the visitors.
Ryan put the Sens up by two at 12:04, easily converting a slick feed from Zibanejad, who evaded the check of Bryan Little just inside the blue line. Erik Karlsson tallied the other assist, dishing off to create the 2-on-1 opportunity off the rush.
The Jets made a game of it late in the second period when the top line went to work down low. Ladd was the recipient of a beautiful backdoor feed from Blake Wheeler, and he made no mistake from the sharpest of angles, firing a shot between the pad and the near post with 2:41 to play.
Shots on goal favoured the Sens 21-19 after 40 minutes.
The Jets wasted little time in bringing the game back on level ground, scoring the equalizer just 26 seconds into the third period. On a 2-on-1 with Nikolaj Ehlers, Byfuglien – barrelling in on his off wing – stepped into a slap shot, beating Anderson over the glove.
Byfuglien was the best player on the ice, finishing with seven shots, five hits and more than 28 minutes of ice time – an altogether spectacular showing in the nation’s capital.
“He was average,” Maurice said with a smirk. “He was the best player on the ice tonight. He’s been dominant for us, and he’s been like that for a while now. He’s been as good as I’ve ever seen him play.”
“We got behind the eight ball, but we stuck to our game plan pretty well,” Byfuglien said. “I don’t think we were ever really out of it. We were just moving our feet – showing that we’re a full 60-minute team. We don’t stop. We did the right things and we kept working.”
Hutchinson was incredible down the stretch, making a number of key stops to preserve the appearance in overtime and eventually the shootout.
Turris, Karlsson (a breakaway from the red line in, in overtime) and Curtis Lazar were all left looking skyward after a trio of golden chances were spoiled by the hot goaltender.
“That was fun,” Hutchinson said. “It’s one of those things as a goalie that you like because you have a chance to make a big save. I was fortunate to make those saves for us. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, even when you’re playing.”
Added Byfuglien: “Hutchy… Man, he was hot. Real hot. He kept us in it all night and he deserves the two points. He played a hell of a game.”
The Jets will now return home to face the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night at MTS Centre. The puck drops at 6:00pm CT and you can catch it live on City.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com