The Winnipeg Jets appeared to be so intimidated at coming into TD Garden to face the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins the team held a special meeting Saturday morning just to get their heads together.
The Jets showed little in the way of awe at first against Boston, jumping out to a quick two goal lead on goals by Evander Kane and Dustin Byfuglien just 39 seconds apart in the first period. The Bruins were the ones who looked lost at the start, especially goalie Tim Thomas. He allowed two goals on the Jets first five shots and misplayed the puck enough times to cause more than few gasps in the sold-out arena.
But the tide started turning in the second period, and so did Thomas' goaltending. The turning point came seven minutes into the period when the Jets were on the power play. The Bruins not only killed the penalty but had a couple of breakaways and a rush by forward Rich Peverly that led to a shorthanded goal by Chris Kelly. Kelly got another goal nine minutes later and the Bruins never looked back winning 4-2.
"It was a disappointing loss for us," Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said afterward. "We kind of lost the game probably in the second period. We were all over the place, reacting in ways that we needed to settle down. That was probably the emotion of the game."
Added Jet defenceman Zach Bogosian: "Tonight we kind of gave away two points. We were off to a good start and kind of got away from our game plan and got sucked into there's"
That good start by the Jets had Bruin's coach Claude Julien worried enough to burn a timeout late in the first period. "It was just about slowing the game down a little bit," he said after the game. "I just felt that we weren't skating very well at that point."
Julien also had high praise for Kelly, who was acquired last February from Ottawa and now has 9 goals and 16 points this season. "He's one of those guys that flies under the radar most times," Julien said. "There's always bigger names that get mentioned ahead of him but he's been probably one of our most consistent forwards this year."
Penalties came back to haunt the Jets. Coming into the game the Jets were tied with Philadelphia in allowing 107 power plays, the worst in the NHL. But the Jets had been doing a better job cutting down on penalties during their recent winning streak. That ended Saturday night. The Jets took six penalties, including a double minor by forward Erik Fehr. The Jets penalty killing held up fairly well, but the Bruins scored on one power play.
"Penalties are our biggest issue right now," said goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. "We have great guys on the penalty killing. But if you give them the chance six times that's going to hurt you for sure, no question. We've got to be better."
Both teams were playing the second half of a back to back. The Jets beat Carolina 3-1 Friday while Boston lost at home on Friday to Detroit 3-2 in a shootout.
Despite the loss, the Jets can take some comfort from their three-game road trip. They earned three out of a possible six points, by beating Carolina, losing in overtime to Washington and losing to Boston. The Jets are now 9-10-4 with 22 points. The Bruins go to 14-7-1 with 29 points, and have claimed points in 12 straight games.
The Jets remain fourth in the Southeast Division. But their upcoming schedule is favourable to them. They play their next five games at home starting Tuesday against Ottawa. Through December, the Jets have 12 home games and just two games on the road.
"It feels like we have been on the road for a month," said Noel. "There's a lot of fatigue in there. It's going to be a real good month for us to regroup and get re energized."
Noel said he is pleased with the team's overall play so far and especially the play of Pavelec and back up goalie Chris Mason. Pavelec made 32 saves Saturday while Mason was outstanding in the Jets win over Carolina Friday.
"Come December, come Tuesday's game, we've got to take a step forward," said Noel "We are going to be putting our best foot forward on our home stand and hopefully take advantage of it. It won't be easy, it's going to come through work."