OTTAWA — A date with the NHL’s worst team wasn’t enough to cure the Winnipeg Jets of whatever is ailing them these days. And the final result no doubt has some fans reaching for the air-sickness bags.
Two days after a dreadful performance in Montreal, the Jets produced another lousy result. The basement-dwelling Ottawa Senators scored early and often and cruised to a 5-2 victory Saturday afternoon at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Goalie Laurent Brossoit had a game to forget. The Jets backup, who has been outstanding this season, was shaky all day.
“Obviously, I was fighting the puck a little today. I didn’t feel at my best. I thought the team played pretty well,” Brossoit said. “It’s a tough feeling to put a lot of pressure on your team to score six to win the game.”
Brossoit was making just his 13th start of the year and first in nearly two weeks. That kind of break isn’t unusual, as Connor Hellebuyck’s understudy, and he didn’t blame rust for his poor performance. However, Brossoit felt like his pre-game preparation was off.
“I’ll chalk it up to being a little nonchalant in that regard. And it came back and bit me in the ass,” said Brossoit, who is now 10-3-1 on the season with a 2.30 goals-against-average and .934 save-percentage.
At the other end of the rink, Ottawa’s Anders Nilsson put on a clinic. The Jets had a whopping 86 shot attempts, with 46 going on net. And yet, they could only score twice against the Senators, who are not just dead last in the standings but also in goals against per game.
“A big step in the right direction compared to the Montreal game (a 5-2 loss). Did a lot of things that we didn’t do in that game. Played with speed, spent the bulk of this game down in their end. Coming into the game we knew what this team was good at, they’re opportunistic, they can make you pay if you give them odd-man rushes. And they buried on their chances,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said.
“Obviously, there’s frustration. The Montreal game was a considerably different feel. That was a little bit more of an embarrassment. I think, for the bulk of this game, we did what we set out to do. It was one that didn’t go our way.”
Winnipeg has gone three games without a win for the first time all season (0-2-1) and will try to at least salvage something off this eastern road trip when they take on the Buffalo Sabres this afternoon. The Jets are now 34-18-3 and continue to lead the Central Division by one point over Nashville, which also lost Saturday.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice and his troops said all the right things following the Montreal game about flushing it out of their system and quickly getting back to what they do well. And then, the Jets promptly gave up the opening goal to Winnipegger Mark Stone at just 2:57, and were outshot 7-1 in just over four minutes of play.
Ryan Dzingel made it 2-0 just 12:21 into the game on a shot, like Stone’s, that seemed to catch Brossoit by surprise.
“Laurent’s been so good for us all year, I have a real difficult time critiquing him. That wasn’t his best game, we know that. But I don’t feel comfortable saying we lost the game because of it,” Maurice said.
The Jets showed some signs of life to start the second period, as the much-maligned Patrik Laine made a perfect setup to Bryan Little, who one-timed the feed past Nilsson for his 14th goal of the year, just two minutes into the period. No, Laine couldn’t snap his scoring drought, which is now at 10 games and counting, but his playmaking skills were impressive.
“I had a feeling that he would pass. With where he’s at right now, he’s actually looking to pass more than shoot, and we’re trying to get him to shoot even more. That’s how you break out of those things. It was a great pass. Right on my tape, a great saucer pass,” Little said.
But Stone scored his second of the day at 9:50, followed less than three minutes later by Matt Duchene’s goal to put a dagger in the Jets.
Stone’s goal came just 15 seconds into Ottawa’s first power play, a nice shot, but one Brossoit had a good look at and should have stopped. And Duchene’s was especially ugly, as Brossoit and his teammates all lost track of where the puck was during a scramble, only for Duchene to poke it home.
“It was a mad scramble, and everyone was trying to do a different thing. They were trying to get control of it and get it to the corner, and I was trying to freeze it, and a couple of other guys were trying to do the same. It just kept bouncing around, and then it was kind of an unlucky one,” Brossoit said.
Ottawa added one more late in the game as Zack Smith took advantage of a turnover. Brendan Lemieux then tipped a Josh Morrissey shot with 43 seconds left, his ninth of the year and second in as many games.
Maurice brought out the line blender in the third period, moving Mathieu Perreault up to the second line with Little and Laine, and reuniting the TLC line of Brandon Tanev, Andrew Copp and Adam Lowry. Jack Roslovic moved off the second line to play on the fourth line with Mason Appleton and Lemieux.
Maurice did stick with a curious change from the Montreal game in which Roslovic replaced Laine on the top power-play unit. The Jets went 0-for-3 Saturday, and Laine barely got a sniff of the ice with the man-advantage while skating on the lesser-used second unit, playing just 1:02 of the six minutes.
“We’re getting the same shot. We’re getting one good slot one off, two seams off, something low. We’re just in a stretch of… the one unit, for quite some time now. We’re not getting the puck to go for us. But I was fine with it,” Maurice said.
Wheeler was asked if other teams are now gearing up to play the Jets as a measuring stick, as Ottawa appeared to Saturday.
“That shouldn’t matter. If we consider ourselves one of the elite teams, we should be in that category for a reason. Our best should beat other teams’ best. And it hasn’t been the case the last two games,” he said.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.