Beyak: Jets lead but Southeast Division still up for grabs

Dennis Beyak

3/30/2013 7:44:42 PM

Carolina Hurricanes 3 Winnipeg Jets 1 - The race is on for top spot in the Southeast Division. With the Jets struggling for wins on home ice, the teams below continue to close in and the Hurricanes are now four points back with three games in hand, with Washington and Tampa still very much in the hunt.

Alexander Semin scored 1:06 into the game as the Hurricanes were looking to snap a seven-game winless stretch. Before the midway mark of the first period, Jussi Jokinen scored what proved to be the game-winner, the goal coming just as a penalty to Evander Kane expired.

The Jets cut into the lead early in the second as Olli Jokinen scored his first goal at the MTS Centre, giving him seven on the year. And the Jets kept coming. They had a number of chances to tie the game but Justin Peters matched their chances with big saves.

Then four straight penalties by the Jets, twice being down two men, allowed the Hurricanes to regain the momentum. But the penalty killing continued to be a major positive and great work by Ondrej Pavelec, Zach Bogosian and Ron Hainsey, as well as some key face-off wins by Bryan Little kept it a one-goal game.

The backbreaker for the Jets was a goal by Eric Staal just 28 seconds in to the third period. The Hurricanes played great defence in the third period and with every shift, the Jets seemed to get more tired.

The Jets are now 3-5 in the last eight games, having given up the first goal in eight of the last nine. They are now 8-9 at the MTS Centre, 1-3 in their last four at home, having been outscored 15-5.

The Jets were without defenceman Mark Stuart for the fifth straight game. Bogosian finished the game with nine shots on goal, one short of his career high. The Jets did outshoot the Hurricanes 35-28.

Some games are difficult to dissect, but head coach Claude Noel tried his best.

"We couldn't take advantage of momentum swings, our penalty killing being one of them. Yes, we gave up the early goal but there was till 59 minutes of hockey to be played."

Down two, it then turned into guys trying to do it themselves.

"We looked like 20 individuals," added Noel. "No one is more disappointed than us. That is why they call it a race and we're still in the lead."

The Jets now play three straight on the road, including three in four days (Monday vs New York Rangers, Tuesday vs New York Islanders and Thursday vs Montreal Canadiens), with all games on TSN Jets and TSN Radio 1290).

On Saturday afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers visit the MTS Centre as the Jets play seven of their final nine games at home. After that, it's two games in nine days as the Jets finally get a chance to rest and practice. The lack of those two things seems to be catching up with the Jets.