WINNIPEG -- Jets captain Andrew Ladd was just 11 years old when the original team left Winnipeg at the end of the 1995-96 campaign.
He remembers watching the finale against the Detroit Red Wings, but could never truly piece together what it was about the team that was so endearing to the city. Well, if he didn't get that sense in the preseason at MTS Centre, he did on Sunday.
"Just the whole atmosphere … it was great," Ladd said. "At the end of the game, we were losing 5-1 and they're still standing up and cheering, which was pretty impressive with the performance we put on. So the fans, in general, is something I'll remember most about this game."
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While the fan appreciation was something he'll always remember, Ladd was adamant about what his team needs to do to turn the corner.
"It took us two periods to get going and I think that was the problem," he said. "We put ourselves behind the eight ball. I don't think there was too much buildup to this game … it doesn't matter. You still have to be mentally strong out there to prepare the right way and have the right mindset. We didn't have that."
Not until Nik Antropov's goal early in the third period did it appear the Jets began dictating much of the action until an interference call on Dustin Byfuglien opened the floodgates -- the Canadiens scored the first of three unanswered goals on the ensuing power-play.
"We were just sloppy -- I think that's the best way to describe it," Ladd said. "It seemed like the puck was jumpy and we were trying to do too much and with a team like that, with skilled forwards, they can make you pay."
It didn't help that Montreal goalie Carey Price was also on the top of his game.
"I thought we had some good scoring chances but I thought their goalie was good," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "I thought if he gave up any rebounds, he was right on top of the second and third shots. I would like to see us get a better handle on second and third shots and they were there; we just weren't able to get to them."
Said Ladd: "Maybe if we were able to put one in on Price earlier we would have kept moving forward, but he came up with big saves and kept momentum on their side."
He also pointed to a failed 5-on-3 advantage for 1:19 that began late in the first period and continued into the second. At the time, the Jets were trailing, 1-0.
"Momentum is a big thing, and we didn't capitalize on the 5-on-3 and that could turn momentum so it's things like that you have to capitalize on," he said. "You learn as a team throughout the season that there are important times where you have to be a little more urgent. That was one of those times."
"I think during the season, you get into that rhythm and you keep going and do less thinking," Ladd said. "It's more about just getting out there and playing which definitely helps sometimes. To go out on the road, get away, and focus on what we can do as a team."
Despite the fact it was the first NHL game played in Winnipeg in 16 years, Ladd, who finished with two hits, two takeaways and a minus-1 rating in 19:57 of playing time, would not use that as an excuse for team's performance.
"It was a pretty unique situation but it's not an excuse and we have to come up with a way better performance," he said. "But, that said, this is something we won't get to do again, so it's pretty disappointing with the outcome."