WINNIPEG - A tough second period proved to be too much to overcome for the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, as the Arizona Coyotes scored three goals in the middle frame to hand the Jets a 4-2 loss.
Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor scored power play goals in the first and third periods respectively, but it wasn't enough as the Coyotes responded with two goals of their own on the man advantage.
Head coach Paul Maurice said Arizona's fourth and final goal of the night, where Christian Dvorak found some open space in front of Connor Hellebuyck after an extended shift in the Jets' defensive zone, is an example of the work still to be done.
"We're going to have to identify or become a team that plays a five-man defensive game," said Maurice.
"But that will be a work in progress all year. That's not getting switch flipped next week and saying 'now we're a defensive juggernaut.' We're going to have to work really hard to become a solid defensive team."
Video: ARI@WPG: Scheifele cleans up rebound in front
For the third straight night, the Jets (4-4-0) power play lit the lamp. Josh Morrissey set up Patrik Laine for a one-timer blast from the left circle that rang off the iron behind Darcy Kuemper, but Mark Scheifele was waiting to gather the rebound and deposit his fourth of the campaign.
Blake Wheeler wasn't credited with an assist on the play, but his patience holding onto the puck and drawing two penalty killers toward him opened up the space to get the puck to Morrissey.
"We did a lot of good things. It felt like our power play again," Wheeler said after the power play went 2-for-6. "I got a little bit of motion going back. I think maybe I was getting a little bit stagnant over there, standing still a little bit too much looking for seams. If I'm able to get up and down it creates a little more time and space for those other guys and they're able to cash in."
But with 7.1 seconds left in the opening period, Conor Garland tipped an Oliver Ekman-Larsson point shot past Connor Hellebuyck to tie the game at one.
"It kills the momentum going into the locker room," said Jack Roslovic, who played a season-high 16:48.
"We have to find a way to stop some of their goals and score some of our own."
Video: ARI@WPG: Connor backhands gorgeous power-play goal
Dvorak potted a power play marker - Arizona's first of the season in nine opportunities - 5:11 into the second to give the visitors their first lead of the evening.
Then, shortly after Adam Lowry missed an opportunity on a shorthanded breakaway, Nick Schmaltz buried Arizona's second power play goal of the evening just 2:10 after Dvorak's.
"We have 74 games left. It's something to work on and obviously we have to get better at if we want to compete in the Central Division," Andrew Copp said about the penalty kill, that finished 0-for-2 on the night. "We have a lot of confidence in terms of the players that we have in the room. We feel we should be one of the better teams in the league and give ourselves a good chance to win on any given night."
Dvorak added his second of the night - and the final Coyotes goal of the game - with 2:13 left in the middle frame.
"We didn't kill two penalties. That for me was the big one," said head coach Paul Maurice.
"We blocked four shots tonight. That's a problem when you're penalty killing. You have to get in a lane."
Early in the third, Garland's stick got up on Laine, resulting in a four-minute Jets power play.
During the first minor, Kyle Connor lifted a beautiful backhand short side on Kuemper to pull the Jets within two.
But that's as close as the Jets would get, despite a couple quality chances later in the final period.
With two losses in a row to open a five-game stretch at Bell MTS Place, Wheeler feels the team is still looking for its identity eight games into the season.
"We're very much a work in progress. We're a competitive group and we've come to work every single day since the start of training camp," said Wheeler. "That's a great thing to fall back on. We'll tighten a few things up and also keeping in mind we've played quite a bit of hockey here to start the year. It'll be good to hopefully scratch one out here on Thursday and start to get into a routine."