The losses just keep piling up for the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets’ winless streak is now at six games after a 5-1 loss to the visiting Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night.
The game was not nearly as lopsided as the score would indicate, but the Jets had no puck luck, hit numerous crossbars, and just couldn’t finish their chances in yet another defeat.
The contest was tied after the opening period, but the Canucks scored four unanswered goals in the final 40 minutes with J.T. Miller recording his second career hat trick in the win.
“We’re just a little bit late to everything right now and it’s hurting us,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “Wins and losses aren’t going our way right now, but we’ve dealt with a lot, a lot.
“We can go through a list, and those would be labelled excuses, and I’m not in a real big hurry to start using excuses, but fragile is not a word I would use to describe this group. We’ve had to deal with a lot this year.”
The Jets were missing four defencemen with Josh Morrissey, Dylan DeMelo, Logan Stanley, and Dylan Samberg all out of the lineup.
Jets interim head coach Dave Lowry tinkered with his forward lines and his power play unit throughout the game, but still the goals didn’t come.
“I thought we made a couple mistakes,” said Lowry. “I thought we did a lot of really good things. I know the score and that. They get two power play goals off faceoffs, and pucks to the net, and they capitalized on their opportunities.
“I don’t think it’s frustration, I think it’s disappointment. These guys are great pros and they take a lot of pride in their game. Obviously, as a group we’re disappointed in the results right now.”
Connor Hellebuyck made his 13th consecutive start, but he was far from sharp in the loss, and it might be time to give him a night off.
“We’re not pointing fingers at any individual,” Lowry said.
Defenceman Johnathan Kovacevic made his NHL debut, the fifth player on the Jets to appear in their first NHL game this season. He had one shot on goal, but a pair of giveaways in a little more than 10 minutes of ice time.
“For his first NHL game and he hasn’t had very many practices with us – I thought he handled himself real well,” said Lowry. “I thought he tried to make plays and that’s what we encourage. We’ve got some young guys on the back end. We want them to make plays. He turned the puck over a couple times. That’s gonna come with being a young player.”
Jets defenceman Neal Pionk limped off the ice after he was hit by a shot in the third period. He stayed on the bench, but did not play another shift.
The victory gave the Canucks the season sweep after their third and final meeting of the campaign.
The visitors struck first on the power play just ten seconds after Ville Heinola was penalized for cross-checking. The Canucks won the faceoff, worked the puck below the goal line and Brock Boeser found Miller alone in the slot, who beat Hellebuyck.
Winnipeg would even the score just over two minutes later. Wheeler’s shot from the slot was partially blocked by the stick of a Canucks’ defender, sending the puck fluttering just wide of Spencer Martin in goal. But Andrew Copp was there to bat the puck out of midair and into the net for his 12th goal of the season.
Miller would get the lead back for Vancouver just over five minutes into the second. He took a cross-ice pass from Boeser and wired a wrist shot blocker-side that beat Hellebuyck.
Minutes later, Miller had a chance for the hat trick on a Jets power play but Hellebuyck stopped him point blank, as well as a good follow-up chance from Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
The Jets did not generate much on that man-advantage but earned another power play right after. They had some chances and while they did not score, it carried over some momentum for a long stretch, culminating in a great chance for Copp in the slot but he rang a shot off the crossbar.
That miss proved costly because not long after, Miller found his hat trick tally, beating Hellebuyck five-hole on a shot from the faceoff dot that he should have stopped to make it 3-1 Vancouver after two periods.
Needing a strong start to the third, the Jets did the opposite. Pierre-Luc Dubois took a high-sticking penalty 61 seconds into the third and just seven seconds into the ensuing power play, Brock Boeser knocked home a loose puck near the crease to make it 4-1 Canucks.
The Jets got a power play of their own later in the third and again generated a pile of chances but couldn’t beat Martin.
Playing in his 500th career game, Adam Lowry tried to inject some life into his team by fighting Luke Schenn.
It didn’t work. The Canucks made it 5-1 thanks to a snipe from Elias Pettersson.
Hellebuyck made 28 saves in the defeat, while Martin stopped 33 shots for his first career NHL victory.
The Jets will now head to St. Louis on Saturday looking to put an end to their losing ways.