The Winnipeg Jets battled hard, but couldn’t quite close the deal Tuesday night. Ronalds Kenins tied it up with 7:28 left in regulation before Luca Sbisa ended it just 36 seconds into overtime, lifting the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-2 win at Rogers Arena.
Sbisa finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Radim Vrbata for the winning tally.
For the second straight night, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little had the only goals for the Jets. Ondrej Pavelec made 30 saves in a losing cause.
“It’s the first good game we’ve played since the (all-star) break,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “I’m not talking about things being nice or pretty, but our fight was right on. We were competing. I liked that game. I hate the result and I hate losing a game that you fight so hard in, but… I was pleased with everything but the outcome.”
A tough loss, indeed, but in the same breath, an extremely important single point in the ultra-tight Western Conference standings.
“We found out tonight that every game is going to be hard; every game is going to be a battle just to be in it,” Little said. “That’s the way it’s going to be played the rest of the year, every night. It’s not easy to swallow but it is a step in the right direction.
“That was more similar to the style that we were playing before the break. We’ve got to raise the bar even higher now.”
Wheeler put the Jets up 1-0 with a beautiful goal at 10:18. Galloping after a loose puck in the neutral zone, No. 26 went inside-out on Canucks defenceman Dan Hamhuis before racing in alone and ripping a shot short side on Eddie Lack.
Unfortunately for the Jets and the many traveling fans at Rogers Arena, the Canucks got it right back. With room to maneuver at the top of the circle, Daniel Sedin dished off to Alex Burrows, who buried a one-timer past Pavelec less than three minutes later.
Wheeler had a chance to restore the lead on a clear-cut break late in the period, but Lack came up a big save, smothering the sniper’s forehand shot.
Shots on goal favoured the Canucks 14-6 after a penalty-filled first period of play.
The Canucks continued to press early in the second, but Pavelec stood tall, stopping a shot per minute through the quarter point of the period. His best – a sizzling redirection off the stick of Jannik Hansen – was snared in rapier-like fashion, preserving the 1-1 score.
“Pav was good. Pav’s been good all year. Better than he gets credit for,” Maurice said.
The Jets appeared to take the lead late in the second, but after video review of an Adam Lowry goal, it was determined that Jacob Trouba – who engineered the play with a dazzling rush, coast to coast – interfered with the goaltender, reversing the call on the ice.
“It’s out of my hands,” Trouba said.
Twenty seconds into a third-period power-play chance, the Jets took that elusive 2-1 lead – for real. After Canucks defenceman Alex Edler broke his stick on a clearing attempt, Andrew Ladd quickly gained control before delivering a cross-ice pass to Little, who made no mistake in pounding a shot into the back of the net.
“We had some good looks,” Little said. “We’ve been playing pretty well these last couple games, so if we keep doing that, we’re going to be in a good spot.”
“They (the top line) were good last night, too,” Maurice added. “Andrew Ladd was on the body, on the puck. It’s tough to stand here as the coach of a team that hasn’t won in five games… But I’m happy with the way he played. I liked that game.”
Kenins tied it up with 7:28 left, snapping a long shot under the blocker of Pavelec for the equalizer.
Then, after a strong surge from the Jets, the OT winner.
“We got the point. We’ve got to be happy with that,” Pavelec said. “It wasn’t a bad game. Both teams wanted to win and both teams battled really hard. Take it and leave. That’s hockey.”
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As a result, the forward line combinations were as follows: Ladd-Little-Wheeler; Perreault-Scheifele-Byfuglien; Frolik-Lowry-Thorburn; Galiardi-Slater-Peluso.
Adam Pardy drew back in on defence and was paired with Ben Chiarot.
Mark Stuart was paired with Jacob Trouba and Toby Enstrom lined up with Zach Bogosian.