Jets' penalty kill falters again in 3-2 loss in Vancouver

In a battle between the two teams with the worst penalty kill units in the NHL, it figured that special teams could play a big part in deciding the outcome.

Indeed it did Friday night in Vancouver.

The struggling Canucks scored on their first two power play attempts and held on for a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets.

“You want better execution for sure, right, on any given night,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “5-on-5 we were pretty good I thought.”

With the win, the Canucks ended a five-game losing streak.

It was the first time since Dec. 20, 2016 that Vancouver beat the Jets on home ice, ending the Jets’ eight-game win streak in the city of Vancouver.

“It stinks when you have a chance to make it a great road trip,” said defenceman Nate Schmidt. “It was a good pace game, right. I think we were skating pretty well. I thought we had some chances, right. I think that when you look at the game as a whole, we were a little bit sloppy in some areas.

“I felt like in certain times it was like playing ping-pong – back-and-forth, back-and-forth.”

The Jets trailed by two goals late in the contest, but Pierre Luc-Dubois scored with the goalie pulled with only 2:28 remaining to make it a one-goal game. The Jets had their chances to get the equalizer and Kyle Connor snapped his stick on a one-timer attempt in the final minute.

“A bummer that our top scorer breaks his stick on the back-side,” Schmidt said. “Of all the times, right. I think he’s got a great chance to score from there.”

After a slow start to the season, the Jets penalty kill was greatly improved during their recent win streak. But after the Canucks scored a pair of goals on the power play, the Jets have now surrendered four goals with the opposition on the man advantage in just the last three games.

“It’s a lot better than it was. Tonight it cost us,” said Maurice. “We may have to add other people to it and change some people around. I know where it is in terms of the whole season, but we’ve been actually pretty good with it.”

For the season, the Jets powerplay is ranked 31st out of the 32 teams with a success rate of just 63.8 per cent.

It was the Jets third game in the span of just four days in the third different city, and there were probably a few tired legs after two hard-fought games against the Edmonton Oilers.

“It’s no excuse I think,” said Adam Lowry. “We played a decent game. It wasn’t like we weren’t in it, or we were giving up a lot of zone time, or things like that. It’s just a couple areas of our game we want too clean up. Maybe the sharpness wasn’t there, maybe the kinda execution. You go from two real hard-fought games in Edmonton, and I think the tendency is maybe a let down maybe. You’re playing a team that’s struggled a little bit. They played a good game.”

READ MORE: Turris scores shootout winner as Oilers edge Jets 2-1 in thrilling goalie duel

Coming off an intense loss to the Oilers in Edmonton the night before, it was fair to question what kind of energy the Jets would have in this game.

They looked solid coming out of the gates but it was Vancouver getting on the board first thanks to an Oliver Ekman-Larsson power play goal.

The home side went up 2-0 early in the second when a seemingly harmless wrist shot from defenceman Kyle Burroughs found its way past a screened Eric Comrie, the first career NHL goal for Burroughs.

Exactly 60 seconds later, Nikolaj Ehlers answered in a big way. The speedy Danish winger spun off his man in the Canucks zone, darted to the middle and ripped a blistering shot over the glove of Thatcher Demko to cut the lead in half.

But with the Jets trying to seize momentum back in their favour, Blake Wheeler took a high-sticking penalty and Conor Garland made them pay on the ensuing power play to restore the two-goal advantage.

From there, the Canucks sat on the lead with Demko holding down the fort for the bulk of the duration.

There was a glimmer of hope for the Jets when Dubois scored his tenth of the season with Comrie pulled, but Winnipeg couldn’t find the equalizer before the final horn sounded.

For the second straight night, the Jets pelted the opposing goalie. Demko was the first star of the night thanks to his 37 save performance. Comrie made 26 saves in defeat.

It’s only the second time in 15 games that Winnipeg has lost a game in regulation. The other time also happened to be the second leg of a back-to-back against the Islanders Nov. 6.

The Jets also did not get to exploit the Canucks’ league-worst penalty kill as they did not draw one penalty on the night.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS – Hellebuyck rounding back into form for Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg returns home for a date with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night.

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