Turns out, it’s pretty hard to win in the NHL when you’re dominated for the majority of the game.
The Winnipeg Jets were completely outclassed by the Buffalo Sabres for the better part of 60 minutes, falling behind by three goals before a late rally fell short in a 3-2 loss.
The Jets had 14 giveaways. They went more than 16 straight minutes without registering a shot on goal at one point, and ended up getting outshot 36-21 when the final buzzer sounded.
“A lot of it was self-inflicted,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “We had nothing going. When you don’t have your legs, and you don’t feel your best out there, the worst thing you can do is what we did tonight, is keeping giving them the puck. Bad puck management at both bluelines, and all you’re doing then is feeding their transition, feeding their speed.”
After a scoreless opening period, the Sabres struck for a pair of goals in the span of just four minutes in the middle stanza. They extended the lead on the power play in the third period, before the Jets scored twice in the game’s final five minutes.
“We made it hard for ourselves,” said forward Nikolaj Ehlers. “We knew that they’re a good team. They have a lot of skill, a lot of speed. We didn’t take that away from them, and gave them opportunities to turn it over, and go the other way.
“We got 25 guys in this room that are not okay with our performance tonight.”
It’s the second time in just over a week the Jets have suffered back-to-back defeats. The loss marked the end of the Jets five-game home winning streak as the Sabres won their fifth game in a row.
“We didn’t really get out of our zone very well tonight,” said defenceman Nate Schmidt. “I just don’t think we had a lot of times with the puck on our stick, and making the play to get out of the zone. A lot of times where we just weren’t confident with it.”
The Jets have lost four of their last six games now, and are clearly headed in the wrong direction with two games left to get things straightened out before the all-star break.
The head coach will be looking for some answers on Friday.
“I’m going to talk to a few of the guys tomorrow,” said Bowness. “To get their feedback on why.”
With one assist Adam Lowry ended a nine-game pointless streak.
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Neither side was able to find the back of the net in the first, and even though Winnipeg had two power play opportunities, the Sabres held a 14-6 edge in shots on goal through 20 minutes.
Buffalo continued to pour on the pressure in the second period, going long stretches in the Winnipeg zone without surrendering the puck, smoothly cycling while Jets defenders were unable to get the puck or change.
It paid off just past the midway point when Owen Power collected the puck near the Jets blue line and skated into the slot, whipping a shot that beat Connor Hellebuyck under the blocker to open the scoring.
It was Power’s third goal in as many games after scoring zero in his first 42 games of the season.
The Sabres stayed in charge as they added to their lead a few minutes later. After skating the puck into the Winnipeg end, Jeff Skinner sauced a perfect cross-ice pass to Alex Tuch, sucking the Jets’ defence and Hellebuyck over.
Tuch then made a beautiful pass back to a wide-open Tage Thompson in the slot, and the big centre blasted his 34th of the season into an open net.
Winnipeg got some rare zone time in the Buffalo end in the waning seconds, but couldn’t get a shot on net as they went the final 15:46 of the second without registering a shot.
The Sabres held a 28-11 edge in shots through 40 minutes, and when Ehlers sent a harmless wrister on net just over a minute into the third, a healthy number of fans gave a Bronx cheer.
But Buffalo continued where they left off in the second, keeping the puck away from the Jets and getting chances to extend the lead. Hellebuyck had to make a great save off Victor Olofsson following a terrible giveaway by Pierre-Luc Dubois before Skinner rang one off the post from point-blank range.
Just shy of the midway point of the period, Sabres forward Dylan Cozens was left woozy by an inadvertent elbow from Schmidt. Schmidt was originally assessed a major penalty, but after officials reviewed the play, they assessed Schmidt a minor for roughing.
On the ensuing power play, Olofsson beat Hellebuyck to stretch the lead to three goals as fans booed.
Winnipeg finally got on the board with 4:46 left when Schmidt scored on a power play to cut the lead to 3-1. It was only the fourth shot for the Jets in the period and fourth in 31 minutes of game action.
With three minutes to go, the Jets pulled Hellebuyck to try and mount a comeback with an extra attacker and with 42.2 seconds remaining, the puck found its way to Dubois’ stick after a scramble in front of Eric Comrie, and Dubois roofed it to cut the lead to one.
But that’s as close as the Jets would get. The Sabres did ice the puck but off the ensuing faceoff, a Josh Morrissey point shot missed the net. Buffalo then cleared the zone and time expired.
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Hellebuyck did what he could to keep his team in it, making 33 saves in the loss while Comrie only had to make 19 saves for his first win since Nov. 2.
The Jets will look to bounce back Saturday night when they host the Flyers. Puck drop is just after 6 p.m. with pregame coverage on 680 CJOB starting at 4 p.m.
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