Going into the last game of the season against Tampa Bay, one of the questions around MTS Centre was whether Steven Stamkos would get his 60th goal of the season. For the Winnipeg Jets, their main focus was to put on a good show for the fans that supported them so well all season. They forced overtime before dropping a 4-3 game.
The Lightning built some momentum off a couple of first period power plays and late in the opening frame Teddy Purcell scored his 22nd of the season to open the scoring. He would add another early in the second before the Jets started to take the game over.
Nik Antropov, who also scored in the season opener, notched his 15th to get the Jets on the board. The second period ended 2-1.
At 3:29 of the third, the NHL had it's first 60-goal man since the 07/08 season when Alex Ovechkin had 65. And despite the fans getting on Stamkos all game, they showed their appreciation with a standing ovation. Jim Slater, with his career-high 12th on the year, got the Jets back to within one 1:30 later, setting the stage for a great finish. With the Jets net empty for the extra attacker, Slater, the Jets best face-off man, came out to take the draw, which he won, and seconds later notched his second of the game to tie it. It was Slater's 78th game of the year, marking a career-high for games played in a single season as well.
So it was off to overtime, the Jets fourth extra time game in the last five. Dustin Byfuglien had a terrific chance in overtime, firing a slap shot from point blank range that Dwayne Roloson stopped. Byfuglien went into the game in a tie for second in defenceman scoring, with his 53 points tying his career high. That set the stage for Teddy Purcell's hat-trick goal at 1:07 of overtime.
The Jets finish the season at 37-35-10. From a team standpoint, finishing out of the playoffs will be the negative, while the positive will be the individual success a number of players enjoyed: success to be documented at a later time.
Coach Claude Noel had a lot of praise for Stamkos: "He's a very good player. I am really happy the way our fans showed respect for him with the standing ovation. Classy move by our fans."
Coach Noel felt his team started slowly, but in overtime "I would have liked to have seen Byfuglien score. That would have really capped off the night. We missed the net a lot in the first and missed some good chances in the third. I liked out last forty minutes."
Coach Noel will meet the players Sunday morning and then address the media for one final time. However, he did add "I do see some things that make me believe we can be a good team. We'll have some conversations about this feeling; missing the playoffs is not a good feeling. I enjoyed the year, lot's of lessons for me. I got to know my players."
Coach Noel said he would certainly watch playoffs but did not pick a favourite.