The Vancouver Canucks beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 Monday night, handing the Jets their ninth loss in their past 10 games.
The Jets ran into a hot goalie as they threw 40 shots at Thatcher Demko, but could only muster a single goal as Nils Höglander scored twice to propel the Canucks to the victory.
The Jets could have clinched third place with a win to guarantee a first round playoff matchup with the Edmonton Oilers, but with another loss they now sit just one point up on the Montreal Canadiens. The Jets do have one game in hand on the Habs though with two matches left to play.
But with the losses still piling up and the playoffs just a week away, it might almost be time to press the panic button.
“I think when you go through a stretch we’re going through right now, it’s very frustrating,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “I still think we have a good vibe in our room and a lot to look forward to going forward, but we are certainly having a hard time here closing out the season.”
The Jets have scored just four goals over their past four games, but the offensive drought goes back even further with just 17 goals combined over their last 10 games overall.
“You want production. You need production to win in this league,” forward Mark Scheifele said. “We haven’t had that. We got to iron some things out. We got to figure some things out as a team offensively and defensively. We got to figure them out soon cause the playoffs are coming soon.”
Their scoring woes, at least on this night, weren’t because of a lack of chances. They outshot Vancouver 40-31, but just didn’t make the most of their opportunities against Demko.
“We generated a whole heck of a lot more,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “It’s the offensive part of our game at least looked right until the goalie stopped the puck. We played some games where I didn’t think we generated nearly as much as we had hoped to, but tonight we seemed to have gotten that part back.”
Kyle Connor was one the few bright spots for the Jets as he scored their lone goal to end a seven-game pointless streak.
“That Demko there,” forward Kyle Connor said. “We had, I don’t even know how many grade-A chances, myself – breakaway. It was just one of those nights.”
Blake Wheeler was held off the scoresheet though, ending his six-game point streak.
Neal Pionk and Tucker Poolman were both scratched for precautionary reasons, while Connor Hellebuyck didn’t play either. He had the night off entirely as Laurent Brossoit made 28 stops with Eric Comrie as his backup.
After being a healthy scratch the past two games, Logan Stanley was re-inserted into the lineup. He recorded two shots on goal, two hits, and a blocked shot in 16:48 of ice time.
The Jets are down to their final two games to get that good feeling back before the start of the playoffs. And the pressure continues to build on a team that’s only looked like a shadow of their former selves from the start of the season.
“The things that I was worried about at the start of the year are still the things I’m worried about now,” said Maurice. “But I’m not more worried about it. We’ll get some players back and our lineup will look quite a bit different in 10 days.”
Just over three minutes into the opening frame, Vancouver’s Höglander poked a puck away at the blueline from Ville Heinola to go in on a breakaway. The rookie’s wrist shot bounced off Brossoit’s pad and the young Swede took advantage of a juicy rebound, tapping in his 11th of the season to open the scoring.
Brossoit struggled early on reading and handling the puck, and Vancouver jumped all over him. Less than eight minutes into the game, Matthew Highmore’s wrist shot deflected into the boards and Tanner Pearson followed the puck poking it behind him to captain Bo Horvat for another easy tap-in goal to double the lead.
The Jets cut the lead in half midway through the first period as Mathieu Perreault picked up a loose puck and caught Jayce Hawryluk flat-footed in the corner before feeding a perfect pass to a wide-open Kyle Connor. Connor easily roofed his 23rd of the season over Demko to get his first point in eight games.
A stalemate of a second period saw the puck in the Jets’ end most of the time as Vancouver seemed just a step quicker than the home team and got their sticks into lanes, stalling most breakout attempts.
Just after the ten minute mark in the third, a 2-on-1 and an unfortunate bounce led to a 3-1 lead for the Canucks. Höglander’s cross-ice feed deflected off Josh Morrissey’s glove as he reached to break up the pass. Brossoit couldn’t react in time and the Swedish rookie picked up his second goal of the game.
Connor had two chances to bring his team within one off of a beautiful feed from Scheifele. Connor took the seeing-eye pass that made its way through two defenders’ legs sending Connor in on Demko all alone. Demko didn’t bite on the first fake, making the save with his right pad, and he gobbled up the rebound Connor flipped into his chest on his second attempt.
Late in the third, Perreault was knocked awkwardly into the end boards and slowly went to the bench in noticeable discomfort.
The Jets pulled Brossoit with just over two minutes left hoping their next two shots would get past Demko. But he slammed the door on any comeback attempt, picking up his 14th win of the season.
Paul Maurice shuffled some lines putting Andrew Copp on the second line alongside Perreault and Pierre-Luc Dubois. Paul Stastny, who has played on several different lines since rejoining the Jets, lined up beside Adam Lowry and Mason Appleton on the third line.
The Jets will try it again against the Canucks Tuesday night at 7 p.m. and you can hear the call on 680 CJOB starting with pre-game coverage at 5 p.m.