Winnipeg seemed to respond to the lineup changes head coach Claude Noel made as Alexander Burmistrov scored his first goal in 18 games to give the Jets the early advantage. Burmistrov, who was flanked by Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien on the left and right wings, respectively, took advantage of the wide open space in the slot just over eight minutes into the first period. The quick Russian was able to sneak into the gaping hole in front of Carey Price as most of the Habs’ defensive attention was focused on Byfuglien, who parked in front of the net ala 2010 Blackhawks style. That would be the only glimmer from Winnipeg as just over two and a half minutes later, Michael Ryder put home the first of his two goals as he was left wide open in the slot to bank home a rebound on the power play.
The Jets could’t respond as their offense continued their anemic trend, as Peter Budaj turned away the final 31 shots he faced. Ondrej Pavelec stopped 83.3 percent of Montreal’s 24 shots. The .833 save percentage is the tied for his worst in 60 minutes this season and is his third worst performance overall statistically speaking. .643 and efforts against Tampa Bay and Washington, respectively. In both of those contests Pavelec was pulled during the second period.
“It reminds me of the start of the season when we couldn’t finish teams off and we couldn’t play with a lead,” centre Bryan Little told Winnipeg Jets.com That’s what we had tonight, a good opportunity that we let slip away from us.”
Jets home for five straight
Winnipeg now returns to MTS Centre for their season-high six game home stand where they will try to break the losing streak starting with the Philadelphia Flyers visiting Saturday and the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.
Saturday’s matinee meeting is one of squads heading in opposite directions. Philadelphia is on a four game winning streak and within a win of the final playoff spot, although the New York Rangers have a game in hand over the Flyers. The Jets have yet to beat the resurgent Flyers in two meetings this season falling 5-3 at the Wells Fargo Center and 3-2 at the MTS Centre.
Winnipeg beat Buffalo 2-1 in the squads’ lone encounter at First Niagara Center, and will face the Eastern Conference’s second worst squad who appears to be waving a metaphorical white flag on the postseason trading away three of its top veterans in captain Jason Pominville, Jordan Leopold, and Robyn Regehr.
Following the long weekend against the two Atlantic division opponents, the Jets have three crucial Southeast division games against the Panthers, Lightning and Hurricanes. Like Winnipeg, neither of these squads are in prime playoff position, and haven’t won more than five of their past ten games. If the Jets want to get out of their tailspin and return their Mid-March swagger and standing atop the division, these three contests are pivotal. With the now division leading Captials holding two games in hand, points will be even more pivotal than before in the home stretch of this post-lockout sprint.