The past several weeks without Byfuglien and Morrissey have been....trying. For Winnipeg Jets fans, it’s been the sort of rollercoaster one would very much like to hop off at the nearest exit. Hope springs eternal, however, with the news that Byfuglien was in full practice and nearing a return. That glorious comeback was not to be tonight, and the Jets needed to make do against a desperate Islanders team looking for a win. New York has had some similar struggles, though they’ve arguably been worse than the Jets because they don’t have enough scoring talent to cover their losses. Which of these weakened rosters would prevail?
The First Period
It was evident from the puck drop that Winnipeg was hungry for victory. Just 13 seconds in, the third line blazed a trail to the net and caused some havoc. Brandon Tanev’s wraparound attempt careened off of Lehner’s pads and right to Adam Lowry, who cashed in. Both guys haven’t factored into the offense recently, so a return to productivity was a welcome change. The Isles started to push the pace and tested Hellebuyck a few times, find some open space in the slot area.
Incredibly, the Jets’ third line struck gold again, countering the run of play with a Lowry deflected goal. The forwards burst into the zone and dropped the puck back to Jacob Trouba, who blasted a long-distance shot from the right side. Lowry deftly deflected it past Lehner to increase Winnipeg’s lead. From then on, it was all Jets, and the Isles goalie was forced to make some miraculous saves to keep the game within arm’s reach.
As has often been the case, a sloppy play ended up cutting the 2-goal lead in half. Mark Scheifele passed back to someone near the edge of the defensive zone, but the pass was a bit lackadaisical and Eberle intercepted it near the wall. Jordan found Mat Barzal, who’d been scoreless for some time, and the Isles were on the board. That didn’t deter the Jets, who continued to steamroll New York in the offensive zone, but it did serve a stern warning to smarten up before the second period.
The Second Period
Trotz must have said something in the dressing room, because the Isles came back with a vengeance. Winnipeg’s passive zone defense let the Isles rip the central slot area wide open, and the mediocre Jets blueline had serious issues coping with the pressure. Again, the Lowry line came to the rescue with a bit of a 3-ring circus shift for New York. Clutterbuck’s stick broke on a defensive zone sequence. Another Isles stick broke, and the Jets could sense a goal-den opportunity. Brandon Tanev, continuing the theme of busting goal-droughts, let one go from up high to restore Winnipeg’s 2-goal lead.
New York didn’t blink, and continued to apply unbelievable pressure on Winnipeg’s defensive organization for the remainder of the period. The pressure ended up getting to Tyler Myers, who took several penalties to put the Islanders in a favorable position. The Islanders ended up with a 5-on-3 power play, and Anders Lee deflected a Ryan Pulock blast to get New York in better straits. Winnipeg was more than a bit fortunate that Hellebuyck didn’t surrender anything else, because the Jets defense was more than a bit shaky. The period closing horn was a relieving sound.
The Third Period
Ugh. Where do I begin with this one? I guess I’ll get the good out of the way first. Winnipeg got an early goal from Scheifele, courtesy of another Trouba shot from the point. Those deflected pucks were serious trouble for the Isles PK, a unit that has fallen from grace over the past few seasons. Everything was rosy! New York, of course, refused to settle for defeat, and a greasy rebound from Pulock found Eberle for a goal. Less than ideal.
The Jets defense has been a bit of a tirefire lately, but the last 3 minutes of this game were genuinely surreal. Chiarot went for a check near the wall and took himself out of the play. That set up an Isles zone possession and with less than 2 minutes to go, Casey Cizikas tied the game from a puck that squeaked through Hellebuyck’s pads. To add insult to injury, the Jets decided to put Kulikov and Myers out for the next shift. Winnipeg promptly surrendered the game-winner to Eberle. I really only have one note here.
FOR THE LOVE OF GORD STOP PUTTING KULIKOV AND MYERS OUT IN THE LAST 2 MINUTES OF EVERY FRIGGIN’ GAME. IT’S STUPID, WRONG, AND IT’S COSTING US POINTS. STOP IT. STOP. IT.
- Please lord give us Byfuglien soon. I can’t keep on watching this defense do whatever the heck it’s doing.
- Huddy’s late-game defensive deployments are literally taking my hope and stomping them into ashes.