Jets fall to Penguins 3-1 for second straight regulation loss

After being unable to find a victory in back-to-back road games, the Winnipeg Jets were hoping a dose of home cooking would get them back into the win column.

Instead, the offence sputtered again in a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night.

Despite not playing since Friday, the Jets looked tired and out of sync as it was a pretty lackluster effort.

“It’s hard to just say we didn’t, like, work hard enough or weren’t intense enough,” Jets forward Andrew Copp said. “But kinda, that’s what it boiled down to it felt like. They won all the puck battles. We were kinda drifting. And then they’re skilled enough where they’re going to make plays behind you and capitalize.

“Just not enough oomph in our game.”

The Jets once potent offence has suddenly dried up as Winnipeg has scored just four goals over the last three games. And Kyle Connor’s stick has gone cold. After scoring goals in four straight games, Connor has now gone three straight contests without a goal.

“I didn’t like our game tonight,” said Connor. “I think we could have came out a lot better. We were just a little sloppy, missed passes, kinda circling, not staying under pucks. I mean, our last three-four games, I don’t think we really generated too much.”

The Jets carried the play for much of the first period as they outshot the Pens 11-5 with Dominic Toninato scoring the only goal of the period. But the Penguins tied the game in the middle stanza and then scored again early in the third period.

“We were slow in the third,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “We got the lead and got above it. And we didn’t help ourselves with what we did with the puck, and then we didn’t have it very much.”

The Jets were outshot 17-6 in the final frame in suffering just their second home loss of the season in regulation.

“I don’t think we had a lot of jump,” said Maurice. “The shots are there. The zone time’s there. We’re not heavy enough net front, but we’re talking about a period for me before we blow this thing up. We had a tough third period here. We were pretty good other than that.”

The Jets are now 7-2-1 in 10 tries at the Canada Life Centre this season.

It was the Penguins first visit to Winnipeg in more than two full years, and with the victory, Pittsburgh has won 14 of it’s last 17 meetings against the Jets dating back to 2013.

READ MORE: Jets’ penalty kill falters again in 3-2 loss in Vancouver

The Jets’ fourth line got on the board first after an extended stay in the Penguins end. A point shot was blocked but wound up sitting in the slot for Toninato, who wired it past a partially-screened Tristan Jarry. It was the first goal Jarry surrendered in more than seven periods and 161 minutes.

Winnipeg controlled the bulk of the play in the opening frame, and after not getting a single power play in their loss in Vancouver Friday, Adam Lowry drew an interference call with 22 seconds left in the first.

But the Jets were unable to crack Pittsburgh’s league-best penalty kill, and a few minutes later it was the Penguins’ chance with the man advantage as Pierre-Luc Dubois was called for high sticking.

This created a ‘something’s gotta give’ scenario: the league’s second-worst penalty kill (Winnipeg) up against the NHL’s most impotent power play (Pittsburgh). This one went the Jets’ way in part thanks to a great pad-stack save by Connor Hellebuyck.

The Jets were able to kill off another penalty later in the period but just six seconds after Copp stepped out of the penalty box, Jason Zucker found himself alone in close on Hellebuyck and buried one top shelf to tie the game. At this point in the game, the Jets had a 20-10 advantage in shots on goal, but from here it would tilt heavily in Pittsburgh’s favour.

Winnipeg would get another power play opportunity when Jake Guentzel bowled over Hellebuyck on a net drive, setting off a mini-skirmish but Guentzel got the only minor for goalie interference. Again, the Pens’ stingy penalty kill did its job as the second period ended with the score knotted 1-1.

The Pens would take the lead 3:33 into the third when a point shot caught Hellebuyck up high, he was unable to control the rebound and Danton Heinen chopped the puck over Hellebuyck and into the net.

Kyle Connor got a glorious chance to tie the game a few minutes later, going in all alone on a breakaway on Jarry but Connor lost control of the puck just before getting to the net and wasn’t able to get a great attempt on goal.

A last-ditch effort to tie the game for Winnipeg did not go well as Guentzel scored on an empty net just moments after Hellebuyck was pulled for an extra attacker. That capped off a rough third period for Winnipeg.

The Jets’ goalie did everything he could to keep his team in the game, finishing with 33 saves and many of them on high-quality Penguins chances.

Jarry made 30 saves in the win.

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

Winnipeg now heads out for a three-game road trip starting Wednesday in Columbus.

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