After a dominant win over the defending champs, the Winnipeg Jets were flying high, but an old friend helped bring them back down to earth on Friday night.
In just his second game back in Winnipeg since the blockbuster trade nearly two years ago, Patrik Laine scored twice in his return to the Columbus lineup as the Blue Jackets humbled the Jets 4-1.
The injury-riddled Blue Jackets squad concluded a three-game losing streak by ending the Jets three-game winning streak for just their second road victory of the season.
“We had a lot of bad performances from a lot of players in that room,” said head coach Rick Bowness. “The team game kinda went out the window at times, defensively.
“We gave them those goals. It’s terrible coverage that we normally cover really well.”
The Jackets beat the Jets with a strong transition game, scoring three of their goals off the rush.
“We don’t give up the chances that we gave up tonight on the rush,” said Bowness. “That’s just not our team.
“The goals they got were just way too easy. We don’t give up those goals when we’re on our game. So, when I say there’s a lot of bad performances, from a lot of individuals, that’s what I’m referring to.”
“One second falling asleep and then they’re gone,” said forward Pierre-Luc Dubois who notched their only marker. “We talk a lot about having these assignments that everybody knows what’s going on, especially on the rush, and the D-zone, and who has who.
“When they got those opportunities, they took advantage of them and that was the difference tonight.”
Trailing by three goals in the middle period, the Jets appeared to finally get things turned around before allowing a fourth goal which was the final nail in the coffin.
“We were all over them,” Bowness said. “Three-nothing we hit the post. (If) we score there I think the whole thing turns around. And then we give them the fourth goal. It’s just, stop backchecking properly, simple as that.”
Bowness was also not at all happy with their power play that failed in their first four opportunities before finally converting with less than five minutes left in the game. And he even gave his fourth line a chance to go out on the man advantage.
“That power play could have turned the game around for us, and they didn’t,” he said. “They didn’t execute. So, that’s on them. So, yeah that is a statement. If you’re not going to work, you’re not going to go back out.”
Playing in his first game since Nov. 12, Laine got the visitors on the board first at the 6:48 mark of the first, wiring a wicked wrist shot over the shoulder of David Rittich. There was a smattering of boos when Laine’s goal was announced.
Less than four minutes later, Columbus expanded the lead. Erik Gudbranson’s shot off the rush was stopped by Rittich but the rebound bounced off Dubois and into the net.
The one-way traffic continued in the second as Laine finished off a nice passing play from Boone Jenner and Johnny Gaudreau, making it 3-0 at the 3:19 mark of the middle frame.
To this point in the game, the Jets had managed little in terms of sustained pressure but started mounting a charge after falling down by three. An extended stretch of zone time was highlighted by Morgan Barron hitting the post, but they were unable to get on the board.
What was already a steep climb became more daunting when Gustav Nyquist crashed the net untouched and banged home a feed from Gaudreau to make it 4-0 after two periods.
The Jets have seen multi-goal leads in the third period evaporate twice recently, but there would be no incredible rally on this night.
Winnipeg did manage to break the goose egg with 4:30 left with goalie pulled when Dubois scored on the power play, but that’s all the Jets could muster as Joonas Korpisalo stopped the other 37 shots he faced on the night.
The Jets will try to start a new win streak on Sunday afternoon when they host the Anaheim Ducks. Pregame coverage on 680 CJOB begins at noon with puck drop shortly after 2 p.m.