The Winnipeg Jets went into the evening with a lovely 11-5-2 record. While there are quite a few underlying trends that suggest points of concern, standings points all count the same. The Jets had a great opportunity to grab 2 points against the Buffalo Sabres, a team whose record is disguising a struggling line-up. At home, the Jets have been nigh invincible over the past season and a half, and looked to continue this sparkling trend. Did Winnipeg stomp out the herd, or would the Sabres skewer the Jets?
The First Period
Winnipeg decided tonight would be the night they’d own the first 20 minutes of a game, a task that’s seemed Sisyphean thus far. The Sabres evidently weren’t up to the task of containing literally anyone on Winnipeg’s roster, immediately finding themselves hemmed in the defensive zone on numerous occasions. The Jets forced turnovers, intercepted passes, and made life hell on the few offensive possessions Buffalo had. This was an absolute beatdown, and the Sabres generated absolutely nothing at even-strength.
The Jets, on the other hand, whalloped Buffalo 12-4 in shots on target, buzzing Sabres goalie Carter Hutton from all angles. The Jets threatened to score on every offensive zone sequence, regardless of which line was on the ice. The fourth line of Petan, Roslovic, and Perreault was especially fun to watch below the goal-line. Despite Winnipeg’s immense pressure, the floodgates did not open, and the period ended in a scoreless tie. That said, this was one of the most encouraging opening periods the Jets have played in a long time. I’ll take a scoreless draw if it’s still domination.
The Second Period
The shot clock will tell a different story, but the Sabres got curbstomped again. Winnipeg continued to force turnover after turnover, especially around Hutton’s net. The Sabres tried to toss in some counters when Winnipeg thundered deep into the offensive zone, but even the counters fizzled out spectacularly. One such sequence saw a turnover from a blocked shot bounce right to Patrik Laine. He and Kyle Connor blazed a trail on a 2-on-1, with Laine dishing a perfect pass between 2 back-checking Sabres skaters to gift Connor an easy marker. It was one of Laine’s few even-strength points on the season, and helped get a minor monkey off the back.
Buffalo bravely attempted to get back in this game, generating some late-period offensive pressure that saw Laurent Brossoit look a little shaky. One attempted puck clearance nearly went across Brossoit’s crease and into the net for what would have been a hilariously ugly own-goal. Thankfully, nothing came of the adventurous clearance attempt and the Jets ended the period with a 1-goal lead. Just to keep things interesting, Brandon Tanev took a late holding penalty to give the Sabres a man advantage for the start of the third period.
The Third Period
At some point, you had to guess the Sabres were going to wake up. Wake up they did, tying the game on a Jeff Skinner power play goal. It was the first power play goal in 4 games for Buffalo, which is hard to imagine when you look at some of their top-6 scoring talent. The Sabres started pressing the matter, out-shooting the Jets and piling the offensive pressure on. They were much better in transition through the neutral zone, opening up more passing lanes and generating some quality scoring chances.
The best of the opportunities came on a backdoor feed from Kyle Okposo, who found Casey Mittelstadt on the short side. Brossoit read the pass and robbed Casey, keeping the scoreline tied at 1-1. Buffalo continued to try and create, but couldn’t find the go-ahead goal. Instead, Laine had an unbelievably close opportunity right at the dying horn, just barely whiffing on a puck that sat dangerously behind Hutton’s pads. Off to overtime we went.
Overtime and the Shootout
Both teams looked reticent to stretch the play, closely marking opposing skaters and limiting the amount of space for good passes. Neither team had more than a handful of odd-man breaks. The breakaways and rushes that did occur were either stopped by goalies, or snuffed out on excellent defensive plays. Even Tyler Myers broke up a dangerous situation, though his presence on 3-on-3 wasn’t a great choice to begin with. Neither the Jets nor Sabres got enough separation to score, so the game went to the age-old skills competition.
Eichel opened the scoring on a hot shot, with Laine evening up the shootout on an equally impressive release. Connor then gave the Jets a late lead, but Old Man Pominville snatched a marker at the doorstep of defeat. Winnipeg didn’t record another shootout goal, and Conor Sheary went top-shelf to send the Sabres out of the rink on a high note. This was an unfortunate result for a Jets team that dominated most of the game, but thems the breaks. A 3-0-1 homestand is a pretty great result, all told. On to the next one, folks!
- The fourth line was stellar, creating offensive chances all around Hutton and pestering Buffalo’s skaters into several mistakes. Give that group more time, Maurice.
- Kyle Connor was flying, showcasing his abilities as one of the most terrifying 1-on-1 match-up skaters in the league.
- Patrik Laine got a primary assist! Finally. He’s been overdue.
- Laurent Brossoit was once again very good, despite a few scary moments here and there.
- Losing in the shootout sucks, but whatever.
- There can’t be 60 ways to pronounce “Beaulieu”, Dennis.