WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets are still searching for their first three-game winning streak.
Trailing by two for much of the third period Monday, the Jets poured it on in the quest for a comeback, firing 37 shots at Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov – 16 of which landed on goal – but they were unable to muster enough on the scoreboard, as Colorado skated to a 2-1 victory at MTS Centre.
“When it rains it pours. It seems like the games we dominate, we lose,” said Blake Wheeler, who had 17 shot attempts (10 on goal) and one struck post in the loss. “Sometimes the puck bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. … We’ve just got to find a way to get it done, I guess.”
Joel Armia broke the shutout with 41.6 seconds left in the game, gunning a beautiful shot short side after receiving a pass from Mathieu Perreault with the goalie pulled.
“We battled hard and had a lot of good looks,” Perreault said. “They blocked a lot of shots (21) and we had a lot of chances, but we just couldn’t find a way to get it past him. It’s just not good enough at this time of year.
“It’s tough. If you look at the standings, it’s a four-point swing. Most nights if we play that way, we’re going to win.”
After a scoreless first dominated by the Jets, the Avalanche buried the game’s opening goal one minute and 16 seconds into the middle frame. Hellebuyck was unable to corral the rebound from a Nick Holden point blast, and as the puck sat loose in the blue paint, a quick-to-the-scene Carl Soderberg stuffed it far side.
The Jets were the dominant team early on, recording seven of the first eight shots and 10 of the period’s 15 total scoring chances, but Varlamov kept the Avs in front all night. Hellebuyck was equally good at the other end, stoning Blake Comeau point-blank to keep his team in it, despite Colorado’s ever-increasing territorial advantage following the goal.
“We didn’t have the same second (period) as we did the first,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “We had enough offence there to have a better result in a tight game. There wasn’t a lot of easy offence to be had on either side.”
A power-play goal put the Avs up by a pair with 17 seconds left in the period. With Wheeler serving two for interference, Soderberg delivered a nifty pass over to Jarome Iginla, who rifled a shot top shelf for his 13th of the season and the 602nd of his illustrious career, moving him into 18th place all time in goals.
Though he wasn’t overly busy in the final frame, Hellebuyck made one more for the highlight reel, as Jack Skille fed Cody McLeod for what should have been a short side tap-in on a 2-on-1 midway through, but the goalie got his right pad on it to preserve the slim deficit.
“There’s no other way for us to play,” Maurice said. “You stick to it. That’s all part of the mental toughness and the growth process that a team goes through. It’s a process of getting better at who you are, not changing who you are.”
LATE HITS: JC Lipon made his NHL debut tonight after being recalled from the Jets’ AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, yesterday. Lipon was credited with one hit and one takeaway in 7:11 of ice time. Said Maurice: “He got in on the puck. He plays a version of Matt Halischuk’s game so I thought he had lots of energy and did a good job.”
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com