It was a story of three very different periods for the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night at the Canada Life Center.
The home side dominated the top 20, taking a 2-0 lead with goals from Nikolaj Ehlers and Adam Lowry before completely falling apart in the second half. The visiting Arizona Coyotes — the seventh-worst team in the league — put up 18 shots on Winnipeg’s three in the middle stanza, scoring once.
It all came down to a hugely disappointing third period in which both sides seemed to sink into a deep malaise and neither club managed to find the thread. Winnipeg held off their Central Division opponent, drawing six points ahead of the dormant Calgary, while Nashville is five points behind with three full games.
Though they ultimately clinched the win, it was the same issues that plagued the Jets on Tuesday. The team went 0/6 on the power play, including a drawn-out four-minute double minor midway through the third period that left Arizona down to three men thanks to a broken stick. In their last five games, Winnipeg has failed to score with man advantage on any of their 19 occasions.
“We stopped attacking, we went soft on the puck,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness said after the game. “They fought to get back into the game. We got pinched a few layers in our zone, which took all the steam out of our game. When that happens someone has to get it and ice and reset the puck. We weren’t even able to get it. We had a couple of bad shifts in the second half, we didn’t spend time in their zone because we were changing. We just didn’t have the flow of the game.”
New #NHLJets Fan favorite Nino Niederreiter is recognized for skating in career game #800 @CanadaLifeCtr Tuesday. pic.twitter.com/rMm20UnJ8p
— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) March 22, 2023
Ehlers opened the scoring that night when, after an early breakaway chance, he picked up his own rebound and jammed home after just 4:17 into the game.
Then it was Lowry who scored another shorthandy and ended a game that started deep in Winnipeg’s zone, with Neal Pionk getting an air pass to Morgan Barron who took his time before giving Lowry the puck for the one-timer down the middle closed the frame.
‘Yeah, he doesn’t usually let many in here, does he?’ said Lowry. “Anytime you get a two-for-one, you want to hit it hard and get it over the pad. Barron made such a great pass, it made my job a lot easier. It landed flat on my stick and luckily I got it all. But like you said, he played extremely well against us here. Again he only gave up two and gave them a chance to win.”
In the second half, the Jets earned a second unsuccessful power play opportunity, putting the team on a 0-on-16 man-advantage stretch.
Shortly after a power play of their own, the Coyotes scored their first goal of the game. A strong net onslaught from Clayton Keller resulted in Barrett Hayton’s 15th of the season. Keller’s backhander fell at Hayton’s feet, where he calmly knocked it past Connor Hellebuyck into the net.
“You know, we have to get going,” Morrissey said when asked what happened in the room during the second break. “Get back on our toes. We want a repeat of the first period, not the second. I thought we did that. We took some penalties (by) moving our feet and winning puck fights and that could end the game.
Hellebuyck had a busy time, turning aside 17 of the 18 shots he had in frame – none bigger than a stretching stick, except on a loose puck scramble at goal.
“You know what, I don’t know,” laughed Lowry when asked about his goalkeeper’s spectacular stop. We saw so many great saves from him. He’s never out of the game. I’m thinking of the one from Vegas earlier this year where he just reaches back and gets it with his stick. He just has such a good hand-eye and reads the game so well. Like I said, he really gave us a chance to win, especially with the way we played in the second half.”
When it no longer seemed possible! https://t.co/oki5BqvWrp
– The Hockey News: Winnipeg (@TheHockeyNewsWJ) March 22, 2023
Bowness needed a little shake and changed the top six forwards for the final frame. Pierre-Luc Dubois came out with Nino Niederreiter and Kyle Connor while Mark Scheifele was placed in-line with Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers on his flanks.
The new lines did little to draw additional looks, but happened to lead to some power plays in the third period. Of course, the team couldn’t score a player again, but what else is new.
The Jets held on as Arizona pulled the short end of the stick on infractions, picking up three more minors in the third period that Winnipeg eluded time to retain the 2-1 win.
Hellebuyck finished the game with 29 stops on 30 Coyotes shots and saw his record improve to 31-22-2. Vejmelka made 23 saves for Arizona, falling to 18-20-5 this year.
Next up is Winnipeg, a three-game road trip to the Western Conference with stops in Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. In the midst of an aggressive playoff push, two of the Jets’ three street opponents are well outside the playoff picture, meaning a slightly easier schedule for the team to capitalize on. They return home in 10 days to take on Detroit in the first of five home games on the last day of the month.