TAMPA, Florida – In a wildly entertaining game – the likes of which we haven’t seen all season – the Winnipeg Jets roared back from a three-goal, third-period deficit, but were unable to hold on to a late lead, forcing overtime and eventually a shootout, where the Tampa Bay Lightning prevailed.
Steven Stamkos scored the shootout winner in the fifth round, giving the Bolts a 6-5 win.
Andrew Ladd (2), Tyler Myers, Mark Scheifele and Mathieu Perreault for the Jets, with three of the five goals coming in only six minutes and 43 seconds in the third.
Scheifele got things rolling with a power-play goal at 6:01, and Ladd pulled the Jets with one with a shorthanded tally a minute-and-a-half later. The captain scored again at 12:45, as he cut to the net, put a quick shot into the pads and looked on as Lightning forward Ondrej Palat inadvertently kicked the puck into his own net.
Perreault gave the Jets their first lead with 5:21 to play as he jumped a loose puck at the goalmouth and quickly deposited his team-leading sixth power-play goal.
Nikita Kucherov sent the game to overtime, where the Jets were dominant, coming – literally – within inches of winning it numerous times.
“I liked all 60 minutes,” Head Coach Paul Maurice, who was assessed a game misconduct to start the third period, said post-game. “I love the way they competed. We outplayed them, out-chanced them. I pushed them real hard yesterday, I challenged them, and they responded. I’m really proud of the way they played.”
Three goals on three straight shots by Victor Hedman, Jonathan Marchessault and Steven Stamkos gave the Bolts a commanding lead, but the Jets didn’t quit.
For about the first three quarters of the opening period and a good chunk of the final two, they were terrific. How it unravelled – a brief, 241-second span late in the first period – made no difference in how the coach (and players) evaluated the effort.
“I think our guys came out and battled extremely hard from the drop of the puck in the first period,” Blake Wheeler said. “I really like the way we competed all night. We got behind, but we stuck with it.”
Hedman opened the scoring at 15:38 after the Jets dominated the early portion of the game, outshooting the home side 11-4. With all kinds of time in the high slot, Hedman positioned himself between the hash marks, loaded up and fired a shot high over the glove hand.
The floodgates opened for just a few minutes, enough to put the Jets down three-nil through one.
Within minutes, Marchessault put the Bolts up by two when he buried a centering pass five-hole after a miscue between Pavelec and Ben Chiarot led to a turnover behind the net. Stamkos rounded out the scoring with just 21 seconds left, pouncing on a rebound in tight and shovelling it into the open side
Nikolaj Ehlers had a great chance for the Jets early on when he pulled away from the speedy Tyler Johnson to create a partial break, but Andrei Vasilevskiy made his first big save of the night, thwarting the winger’s backhand try.
Ehlers kept with it and came within inches of a goal on a power play midway through the period, but his beam from the far circle rattled iron.
“Ain’t the first time we’ve been through that,” Wheeler said of the deficit. “We felt like we had gotten the better of the play in the first period. There were three pucks that just found their way into the net. We felt comfortable with the way we were playing and felt that if we stuck with it, we could claw our way back into the game.”
Shots favoured the Jets 13-8 after one, 22-16 through two and 37-24 after 60 minutes.
After Tyler Myers got the Jets on the board late in the second period, Alex Killorn – on a feed from Ryan Callahan – put the Bolts up 4-2 early in the third. While many thought the game was over, the Jets had other plans.
“We battled and competed for 60 minutes,” said Ladd, who added a fight and a goal in the shootout to round out the night. “This team always responds well. Every time we’re challenged, we come back and play the right way.
“We’re happy with the effort we had tonight.”
LATE HITS: Paul Postma played just his third game of the season, and first since Nov. 10, replacing Adam Pardy on defence. Postma finished the night with two shots in nine minutes of ice time alongside Ben Chiarot. … Andrew Copp was a late scratch. Adam Lowry moved down as a result, centering Chris Thorburn and Anthony Peluso on the fourth line. … Little left the game late in the second period after being crushed by Lightning defenceman Anton Stralman. Little was in a vulnerable position, exposing his head to the hit. Stralman was not penalized on the play, and after a series of penalties to the Jets (roughing, in response to the hit, and a bench minor for disputing the call), the Bolts were given a four-minute power play.
“You don’t want to see that, right?” Ladd said. “Litts was in a vulnerable spot and was stumbling for three or four steps. As a D man, you know he’s in a vulnerable spot. Do you need to try and take his head off? I don’t think so. It’s a clear headshot, so hopefully the league looks at it.”
Maurice, who received the misconduct after arguing the call, said Little was having an x-ray on his neck.
Both the forward line combinations and D pairings were tossed in the blender for this one. Nikolaj Ehlers joined Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler on the top line; Mark Scheifele centered Andrew Ladd and Joel Armia on the second, while Mathieu Perreault moved back into the middle, pivoting Alexander Burmistrov and Drew Stafford on the third unit.
On D, Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien formed the top pairing, while right-handers Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers rounded out the Top 4.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com