Hurricanes stifle Jets 4-2 as special teams continue to struggle

After scoring 14 goals in two games, the Winnipeg Jets were suffocated offensively in a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night.

The Hurricanes scored on the very first shift of the game and completely outclassed the Jets with with an aggressive style of play in a 4-2 victory at the Canada Life Centre to close out the homestand.

“They skate very, very well,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “They skate to check and we were just slow with it, and slow without the puck. Our puck carrier didn’t move and that held the other forwards. It’s not a game where you can pass the puck easily up the ice. It’s got to be indirect, it’s got be chipped to speed. Got to play the same kind of skating game, and we didn’t skate well right from the very first shift.

“We just weren’t prepared to play. That’s my job for the style of game that was going to be played today. We didn’t skate anywhere near well enough to expect to win.”

It was the Jets’ first game without defenceman Neal Pionk who was serving the first of his two-game suspension for kneeing.

Nikolaj Ehlers scored for the third consecutive game and Pierre-Luc Dubois also notched a second period marker, but the Jets’ short two-game win streak was still brought to a halt.

The Jets were outshot 15-5 in the first 20 minutes and 34-18 was the final game total.

“We weren’t very fast out there in the first,” said Ehlers. “And got better in the second, but when a team is that aggressive, you want to chip pucks out, and get pucks deep, and work from there. I think we were able to do that a bit better in the second period, but we got to do that better, and that’s something we are obviously are gonna look at and talk about.”

And the game wasn’t without a little controversy. Sebastian Aho appeared to shove Connor Hellebuyck’s pad before he scored the Canes second goal. After the goal was allowed to count, the Jets challenged for goalie interference, but were denied.

“It’s goalie interference,” Hellebuyck said. “There’s allowed to be incidental contact, but that wasn’t incidental contact. He drove me through and he didn’t get the puck until he turned me 90 degrees. So, I don’t want to say I had it fully covered, but it was jammed on my pad by my doing. And it only came free once I was spun completely around.

“And his stick was in my knee and not allowing me to do anything. I was rendered useless. So, for me, that’s goalie interference.”

Winnipeg’s Seth Jarvis played his first NHL game in his hometown in front of friends and family. The 19-year-old recorded one assist in a little over 10 minutes of ice time.

READ MORE: Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk suspended 2 games for kneeing

Jaccob Slavin opened the scoring just 30 seconds into the game when his point shot skidded through a screen and beat Hellebuyck five-hole.

The Hurricanes continued to pour on the pressure in the first but Hellebuyck was outstanding in the period, turning aside the other 14 shots he faced.

But like the first, the second period also got off to an inauspicious start for the Jets. Just 1:12 into the frame, Aho jammed the puck through Hellebuyck and into the goal to make it 2-0.

Winnipeg decided to challenge the play, arguing that Aho interfered with Hellebuyck. While it appeared that Aho did push Hellebuyck’s pads with his stick and that helped propel the puck into the net, the officials did not overturn the call on the ice.

That gave the Hurricanes a power play that only lasted 33 seconds because Vincent Trocheck took a hooking penalty for Carolina.

On the ensuring 4-on-4, the Jets cut the lead in half when Nate Schmidt’s long stretch pass to Paul Stastny set up a two-on-one. Stastny found Ehlers who made no mistake for his 10th of the season and fourth in his last three games.

With just under four minutes left in the second and the Jets on a power play, Blake Wheeler sent one on goal from the half wall and Dubois, with his stick between his legs, redirected it past Frederik Andersen to tie the game.

Most of the fans at Canada Life Centre didn’t realize how slick the deflection was until it was shown on replay, sending a wave of oohs and ahs through the crowd.

But the game was not tied for very long. Josh Morrissey took a cross-checking penalty, Stastny broke his stick on the penalty kill, and Martin Necas finished off a mad scramble in front of Hellebuyck to put the Canes up 3-2 with just 20 seconds left in the period.

It was the second straight period in which Carolina got 15 shots on goal, and after averaging close to 40 shots per game in recent weeks, the Jets had managed just 13 through 40 minutes.

The Hurricanes would extend the lead early in the third after Adam Lowry took a holding penalty. Trocheck jammed in a loose puck on the power play to make it 4-2, yet another goal yielded by one of the worst penalty killing units in the NHL.

Winnipeg almost cut into the lead moments later when Dubois deflected a loose puck through Andersen, but the Canes netminder swung his leg around as the puck trickled towards the goal line to keep it out. Dubois thought he had scored, raising his hands, and the goal horn briefly wailed before the officials correctly called it no goal.

The Jets would get ample opportunity to cut into the deficit at the 7:39 mark when Ian Cole took his third penalty of the game and got kicked out for it, a major penalty for kneeing Mark Scheifele a day after Pionk got a two-game suspension for kneeing Rasmus Sandin Sunday night.

But Winnipeg’s power play was no match for Carolina’s penalty kill, the second-stingiest in the league. The Jets managed just two shots on goal in the five minute man-advantage, prompting some boos from disappointed fans.

With just over three minutes left the Jets decided to pull the goalie and Ehlers had to make a great diving play to keep a sure goal out. Josh Morrissey also made a good save but the Jets did not get any extra offence with the net empty.

READ MORE: Winnipeg Jets beat Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Wheeler’s big night

Both teams managed just five shots in the final frame. Hellebuyck finished with 30 saves in the loss while Andersen stopped 16 shots in the win.

The Jets placed Pionk in concussion protocols after he was kneed in the head by Jason Spezza in their previous game. Spezza was given a six-game suspension on Tuesday for the incident.

The Jets also lost forward Riley Nash when he was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier on Tuesday.

The Jets finished the four-game homestand with a 2-2 record. Winnipeg now heads west for a quick back-to-back starting in Seattle Thursday night.

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