The Pittsburgh Penguins made their lone visit to the MTS Centre Thursday night to take on the suddenly streaking Jets. The Penguins were sure to be a true litmus test for a Jets defense that has been playing much better as of late. Not to mention a suddenly hot Ondrej Pavelec.
The Jets came out with a lot of energy to start the game. They advanced the puck well and were able to muster a few shots on the newly-extended Marc-Andre Fleury. One thing that was evident fairly quickly was that the Jets fourth line was going to struggle whenever they were on the ice. They were trapped a few times in their defensive zone and appeared to be scrambling to keep up the finely tuned machine that is the Pittsburgh Penguins. Andrew Ladd opened the scoring in the game tipping in a shot from Bryan Little. At this poing it's fairly safe to say that Ladd has put his early offensive struggles behind him. Unfortunately the lead didn't last long as Simon Despres' shot from the point beat him high on the glove side. While the Jets struggled to keep up to the Pens at times, they still managed to put together a solid first period and killed off the bulk of a power play to enter the first intermission tied 1-1.
The second period began at the same pace as the first. The Jets killed off what was left of their penalty and were shortly rewarded with a power play of their own. While they got some quality chances, they ultimately were unable to capitalize. Brandon Sutter gave the Pens their first lead of the night when he beat Pavelec five on a breakaway. Midway through the period the Jets were forced to kill off an extended power play from the Pens with Evander Kane, Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik all spending time in the penalty box. They managed to successfully kill off the power play which brought even more life to an already stimulated crowd. Unfortunately the energy wasn't enough to tie the game up, even with a chance on the power play. As the power play expired Steve Downie came out of the box and quickly capitalized on a breakaway chance. Immediately following the goal there was a scrum that resulted in a 4 on 4. The Jets were lucky to come away with a 4 on 4 considering that Byfuglien took an incredibly stupid penalty after the goal. The Jets were able to pull within one on a blast from Jacob Trouba.
The bad blood spilled over into the third period. Shortly after the puck was dropped Downie and Byfuglien got into it again and were sent off with 10 minute misconducts. But the focus on that situation didn't last long when a streaking Evander Kane got his first goal of the season on a breakaway; knotting things up at three all. The game remained physical throughout the period with both Trouba and Adam Lowry dropping the gloves. While I'm not a fan of fighting in hockey, I was okay with Trouba fighting after Pavelec got ran. In no situation can you tolerate your goalie getting run over. While it put the team at a disadvantage in this game, it's something that the team can rally around and builds camaraderie. The Penguins weren't able to make them pay for the power play, so I guess you could say that Trouba's gamble paid off. There were many great chances from both teams throughout the period, but ultimately the game needed extra time to find a winner.
The overtime period didn't solve anything and the game needed a shootout to find it's victor. Ultimately it was Sidney Crosby that came away with the shootout winner.
Overall this was one of the most exciting games we've seen from the Jets in a long time. It was a back and forth game with lots of action. While the Jets were unable to come away with a win, they can hold their heads high knowing that they competed hard against the Pens and gave the home fans a show. They didn't leave empty handed as they collected a point for the seventh straight game.
Thoughts from the game:
- It's really great to see Andrew Ladd get back into a groove. If the team is to exceed expectations this season he will need to perform at an even higher level than we've seen from him throughout his time in Winnipeg.
- Blake Wheeler had a fight in the first period and held his own in that fight. But he's simply too valuable to this team to continuously drop the gloves. Five minutes without him on the ice is five minutes that the Jets are less potent and dynamic offensively.
- Wheeler wasn't alone. Both Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien spent a considerable amount of time in the sin bin tonight. The Jets simply don't have enough talent to overcome key players missing that much time and they need to be more responsible moving forward.
- Speaking of responsible, if Chris Thorburn isn't fighting for these guys... what exactly is he bringing to the table?
- Ondrej Pavelec did not look good tonight. He seemed nervous and was scrambling more than he needed to. Historically he has always performed poorly against the Penguins (as have many goalies) so hopefully it's just a matter of a team being in his head and he is able to continue his good play as of late. Though, one could certainly point to this as the beginning of his regression to the mean.
- Jacob Trouba was finally rewarded for his good play lately with his second goal of the season. He looked slow on the ice and slow to react to start the season. But as the season has progressed, so has his game.
- Mathieu Perreault had a strong game tonight. While it doesn't show up in the box score, he did a lot of little things that helped the Jets and made several smart plays. He did take a stupid crosschecking penalty late in the game that could have cost the Jets the game. But with just over a minute left in overtime he drew a huge penalty to give the Jets a chance to win the game.
- Weird to see Crosby held off the stats sheet. His presence wasn't really felt throughout the night and the Jets did a good job minimizing his impact on the night.
- Marc-Andre Fleury was really good for Pittsburgh. This game could have easily been a blowout for the Jets if it wasn't for massive saves from him. Which isn't to say that the Jets dominated the Pens, but they did manage to get some sensational scoring opportunities that he turned away.