Chicago Blackhawks 5, Winnipeg Jets 1 - There was plenty of hype going into this game as the Chicago Blackhawks made their first appearance at MTS Centre. And plenty of reasons for the hype - an original six team, the defending Stanley Cup champs, they've won two of the last four league championships, local boy Jonathan Toews is the Hawks' captain, and plenty of players and people with ties to one of the cities or organizations.
For only the fourth time this season the Jets opened the scoring, as a Toby Enstrom (2nd) blast from the line found the back of the net. It was only the fourth time this season the Jets scored the game's first goal. This game saw momentum swings, the first coming right after the goal. Brandon Bollig was called for tripping and the Jets went on the power play but within 41 seconds, it went from a Jets power play to four-on-four to a Chicago power play, as Dustin Byfuglin and Andrew Ladd were called for penalties 20 seconds apart. It was the third time this season the Jets have been two men short and officially they killed it off, but a Chicago goal came one second after the penalty to Ladd expired. A clean faceoff win by Marcus Kruger led to a blast from Niklas Hjalmarsson for his first of the year to tie the game at one.
The next momentum swing was the first six minutes of the second, a swing that decided the game. Andrew Ladd and Brian Little combined for a couple of great chances in the opening seconds but could not beat Corey Crawford. The Jets aggressiveness led to an odd-man rush for Chicago with Brandon Bollig (2nd) ripping a wrist shot short side to give the Hawks the lead. One minute and 47 seconds later, Patrick Sharp got in behind the Jets defence and scored a beauty to make it 3-1. It was a goal the Jets felt really turned the game. At 5:49, a neutral zone turnover lead to a Nick Leddy shot that found the net through all sorts of traffic to make it 4-1 and end the day for Ondrej Pavelec and pretty much put the game away.
Patrick Kane had a penalty shot in the third but other than that, the three calls in 41 seconds in the first were the only penalties. On the penalty shot, Kane went to the back hand and appeared to have Al Montoya beaten, only to hit the cross bar. Ben Smith scored soon after to make it a 5-1 final.
The Jets spent plenty of time Thursday and Friday at practice working on defensive parts of the game. Some was just because it needed work and some was because of playing Chicago. And the Jets followed the plan in the first period. Keep the puck out of the middle of the ice, don't over attack in the Chicago end, and be careful of the transition game. The feeling from several players was that once they fell behind, the game plan was abandoned.
It does not get any easier for the Jets, with Detroit in Winnipeg Monday (TSN Jets and TSN 1290) and the Jets back in Chicago Wednesday. This game started a stretch of six games in 11 days. The Jets will play 14 in 28 days in the month of November.
"We had a good first period, coming out 1-0 would have been nice but we lost a face-off and they scored," is how Coach Claude Noel started his post-game news conference. "Turning point was the goal that made it 3-1. Took the win out of our sails and took the air out of the building. You could see the frustration. Turnovers hurt us. I am not going to fault Pavelec. There were breakdowns long before it got to him."
Andrew Ladd led the Jets with five shots on goal. Matt Halischuk had four, as his line with Mark Scheiffele and Michael Frolik was probably the Jets' best line. Jets kept Toews off the score sheet, ending his five game point streak.
After scoring 10 goals in the first two games of the season, the Jets have now scored 23 in the last 13 games, not counting shootout goals. Jets record is now 3-5-1 at home and 5-7-2 on the season. Hawks are now 8-1-2 in their last 11.
Jets were minus Paul Postma, Mark Stuart, Jacob Trouba and Jim Slater because of injury while Eric Tangradi was a healthy scratch. Ben Chairot made his NHL debut and along with defence partner Adam Pardy had a tough night at minus- 3. Chairot played 10:47 and had three hits. Julian Melchiori was recalled from St. John's because of all the injuries on defence but did not play, plus the Jets picked up Keaton Ellerby off waivers from Los Angeles. He is expected at practice Sunday. Ellerby is 6'5, 220 and turns 25 on Tuesday. He was a Florida pick, 10th overall in the 2007, a draft pick out of Kamloops of the WHL, and was traded to the Kings last February. He has not gotten into any games this season and has 160 NHL regular season games under his belt. He appeared in five playoff games with the Kings last spring, averaging 10:43 of ice time.