With a week-long training camp behind them the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators opened the 2013 season in front of an enthusiastic and sold out MTS Centre crowd in Winnipeg Saturday afternoon and, despite the effort being there, rust was evident.
The Senators got better as the game went on, outshooting the Jets 37-28 while skating to a 4-1 win.
Dustin Byfuglien opened the scoring for the Jets on the power play, taking a Tobias Enstrom pass and beating Craig Anderson with a blast from the line. There was a great pace to the first 12-15 minutes but as the game wore on it appeared fatigue was starting to set in. Both teams struggled with passes which was not a surprise as both coaches expected a bit of a choppy game.
Milan Michalek, who led the Senators in goals last year with 35, tied the game in the first, with Chris Neil scoring what turned out the be the winner late in the second. Erik Karlsson and Kyle Turris rounded out the scoring in the third. Karlsson, who led all NHL defencemen in points last season while winning the Norris Trophy, ended with a goal and an assist in a game high 25:35 of ice time. He also led all Senators with 6 shots on goal.
Byfuglien played 24:44 for the Jets, second behind Enstrom, while his six shots on goal made him the team's biggest offensive threat. "Buff was good," said Jets' coach Claude Noel after the game. "He was responsible, and tried to be the difference. He was our best player."
As for the sloppy play, Noel added "I didn't expect that but knew that could happen. The goal late in the second was a major goal for them. We didn't get a lot of "A" games."
The Jets were guilty of turnovers, three of them leading directly to goals against.
The Jets leading scorer last season, Blake Wheeler, felt the Jets urgency level was not high enough. "Not a lot of flow out there," he said.
Senators coach Paul MacLean did not like the penalties his team took but was able to find a silver lining. "At the same time our penalty killers did a good job," he said.
The Jets next play a Monday afternoon game in Boston (TSN Jets and TSN 1290), followed by a Tuesday night game in Washington (TSN and TSN 1290), before returning home to play Pittsburgh Friday (TSN and TSN 1290).
James Wright and Anthony Peluso, newly acquired via the waiver wire, did not dress for Winnipeg, while defenceman Zach Redmond was the other healthy scratch. The Jets are also without Antti Miettinen and Zach Bogosian due to injury.
Brian Little looks as though he will again lead the Jets in face-offs, taking 26 and winning 15 against Ottawa. Alexander Burmistrov led the Jets with more than two faceoffs taken in terms of faceoff percentage at 73 percent.