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Jets mount late charge but Makar scores in OT to give Avalanche the win

After showing little spirit in a home loss to Detroit on Wednesday, the Winnipeg Jets brought their A-game but it still wasn’t enough to beat the best team in the NHL Friday night.

Cale Makar’s winner on an overtime power play lifted the Colorado Avalanche to a 5-4 win in what was the most electrifying game at Canada Life Centre this season.

With a two goal lead in the third period, the league leading Avalanche appeared to be well on their way to another victory. But the Jets scored twice in the final 3:35, including the tying goal with just 16 seconds left.

“That’s what we’ve been talking about – the desperation level,” said defenceman Josh Morrissey. “And battling every night no matter what the situation is for us.

“We want to be able to leave the rink at the end of the night knowing that we left it all out there, and showed that pride, and we want to do that down the stretch.”

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It was a fourth straight loss for the Jets, but at least they picked up a single point. The Jets are now seven points back of the Dallas Stars for the final wild card spot with only 10 games remaining and the Stars still have two games in hand.

“Obviously we’re not happy with where we are,” Morrissey said. “But at the same time, what kind of team do we want to be? What type of group do we want to be in there? What kind of fight do we want to show each other?”

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Morrissey & Ehlers Interview – Apr. 8'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Morrissey & Ehlers Interview – Apr. 8

Morrissey made a kick save on a shot from Nathan MacKinnon with the empty net in the final minute to allow the Jets to come back to tie the game.

“I don’t think I can use words to what’s going through my head when you see that,” said Morrissey. “Just try to do whatever you can to make a save. I didn’t play a whole lot of goalie in road hockey, but more like mini-sticks back in the day, kick the foot out. I’ll tell Flats (Wade Flaherty – goalie coach) that he should work on that with the goalies.”

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Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers both had two goals and one assist in a game that went back-and-forth.

“I really liked our game start to finish,” said interim head coach Dave Lowry. “Obviously, in the second period we made a couple mistakes. We gave up the inside ice and it cost us. But (we) showed lots of resiliency. We showed lots of compete. We showed lots of composure and I thought that we deserved better.”

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Dave Lowry Interview – Apr. 8'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Dave Lowry Interview – Apr. 8

The Jets played without captain Blake Wheeler who is day-to-day with an upper body injury suffered in their loss to the Detroit Red Wings. While the Avs were missing both Gabriel Landeskog and Nazem Kadri.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS – Jets failing to live up to lofty expectations

It was not the start the Jets wanted when the Avs got a bit of a fluke goal to open the scoring. Nicolas Aube-Kubel threw the puck on net from the corner, hoping to connect with a teammate but instead it banked off the skate of Brenden Dillon and past Connor Hellebuyck.

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The Avalanche would get an opportunity to make it 2-0 on a power play but the Jets killed it off, and not long after they were able to draw level.

Just past the midway point of the period, Ehlers was sprung on a 2-on-1 with Scheifele. Ehlers showed great patience as Scheifele drove to the net, waiting until the perfect moment to send a pinpoint pass. Scheifele shovelled it past Pavel Francouz for his 28th goal of the season.

Those two would connect again with less than three minutes to go in the frame. Bowen Byram misfired on a pass in his own end, trying to hit JT Compher but instead it wound up on the stick of Scheifele, who fired a pass to Ehlers who was parked in front of the net.

His initial try was turned aside by Francouz, but Ehlers banged home the rebound to give Winnipeg its first lead since blowing an early advantage in Toronto Mar. 31.

But it didn’t take Colorado long in the second period to erase that lead. Using Dylan DeMelo as a screen, Andre Burakovsky ripped a shot that dove under Hellebuyck’s glove at the 3:55 mark.

The Jets nearly regained the lead moments later when Dylan Samberg, playing in his first NHL game since January, hit Scheifele with a great stretch pass to send the centre in alone but he was turned aside by Francouz.

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Just past the nine minute mark, the Avalanche regained the lead thanks to veteran defenceman Erik Johnson. Drifting into the slot in transition, Johnson got the puck from Alex Newhook and wired a wrister past Hellebuyck.

After some very entertaining back-and-forth action, Compher got behind the Jets defence on a breakaway but he was hooked from behind by Dillon and awarded a penalty shot. He outwaited Hellebuyck and had the Jets goalie down but Compher’s backhand missed the net.

Mere seconds later, Cale Makar was called for tripping, giving Winnipeg a power play for the first time in the game. Not only did they not generate much offence, Hellebuyck had to make a couple high-quality saves to prevent a shorthanded goal.

The Avalanche extended the lead early in the third when MacKinnon was first to a rebound that nobody else could locate, making a move in front to beat Hellebuyck.

It was his 25th of the season and fifth against Winnipeg alone.

With time running out on the Jets, Scheifele decided to take matters into his own hands. Collecting the puck just outside his own blueline with under four minutes left, Scheifele skated through multiple opponents before ripping a perfect shot past Francouz to make it a one-goal game and inject life into the building.

Re-invigorated by the Scheifele goal, the Jets mounted a late charge to try and tie the game. MacKinnon had a chance to seal the deal on an empty net but Morrissey laid out to block the attempt, which turned out to be critical because moments later, Mikko Rantanen was called for cross-checking Ehlers, giving the Jets a last-minute power play.

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With 15.6 seconds left off a scramble in front, Ehlers found the loose puck and knocked it home to tie the game and send the crowd into a frenzy, setting the table for overtime.

But early in overtime, Ehlers was called for slashing, giving Colorado a 4-on-3 man advantage. Just three seconds before Ehlers was set to get out of the box, Makar buried a one-timer to end the game.

READ MORE: Winnipeg Jets’ Kyle Connor and Nate Schmidt return from unexpected ‘spring break’

Both goalies were very busy in the game, with Francouz turning aside 39 shots while Hellebuyck stopped 32 shots in defeat.

The Jets now have ten games left in the season and while not mathematically eliminated, a playoff spot is all but unreachable at this point. Nonetheless, they return to action Sunday evening in Ottawa.

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