The Winnipeg Jets came home to the MTS Centre with some swagger. They had just lit up the Calgary Flames with an impressive shutout victory. Now they play a Canadiens squad who’s missing six regulars? Five of which are key players? It should’ve been a breeze. And it was, for the first minute and a half.
: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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The Jets had a good first shift. Top line came out and did their job. Then we experienced Connor Hellebuyck’s breakdown, as he allowed three goals on just seven shots. Coming into the game, Hellebuyck said his confidence was as high as its ever been, and he would feel more than comfortable playing, even against Carey Price. Al Montoya was named the netminder for the Canadiens instead, as they felt another rest day for Price would be for the best before he battles the red-hot Minnesota Wild tomorrow.
Hellebuyck’s first goal against was a bad way to start the night. His second official shot rolled off his pad at a bad angle, and went straight to Phillip Danault, who potted his first of a two goal night. The second goal also goes to the blame of Hellebuyck as Brian Flynn came racing into the Jets zone, catching a pass and fluttering a wrist shot off Hellebuyck’s arm and into the net. Nearly ten minutes later, Tomas Plekanec found a hole on Hellebuyck’s glove side to end his night. It seemed after two quick ones got past him, Hellebuyck was rattled for the rest of his outing.
Dustin Byfuglien also had his share of difficulties. On Phillip Danault’s second goal, Byfuglien looked as though he attempted to break up the rush with a quick body check, but pivoted in the wrong direction, and ultimately watched Danault race right past him. Byfuglien’s frustration was evident late in the second period as he laid out two Canadiens in the span of two minutes.
Paul Maurice was the most unhappy of the bunch, as he gave the Jets a beating with his mouth during a mid-period timeout. Maurice looked more upset with his players than his anger with the referee’s last season when he was tossed from a game. Certainly he will be just as mad at the Jets at practice tomorrow, as they responded from his message with just two shots on goal throughout the entire second frame. Frustration continued to boil over in the third period, as Shawn Matthias took a silly unsportsmanlike penalty.
The Jets have been known to underestimate teams lower in the standings like they did against the Canucks before the Christmas break, and just as they did to the Canadiens who have a glut of injuries. That doesn’t mean they never bring their “A” game, just not on a consistent basis. That’s why the Jets usually have the upper hand over strong Central Division opponents like Chicago, and Dallas. The Jets need to think about the effort they put on the ice against a Canadiens lineup that looked anything but competitive. Every loss separates them farther and farther from a wild card spot. All the players can do is put in the effort to slow that margin.