Lack of scoring continues to be an issue for the Winnipeg Jets, although the effort and compete level that head coach Claude Noel was looking for was much more evident in the 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.
The Jets still had some issues in the first period as they were outshot 12-6, but the biggest issue was the loss of defencemen Toby Enstrom with an upper-body injury, an injury Noel said "is not day-to-day". So for 1:07 this season, the Jets had all their top defencemen in the game. Dustin Byfuglien returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing five games, while Zach Bogosian played his first game of the season after undergoing wrist surgery.
Craig Adams had the only goal of the first period, banging in his own rebound. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec made a big save off Evgeni Malkin early in the second and it seemed to spark the Jets. They outshot the Penguins 13-7 and played most of the final six minutes of the second in the Pittsburgh zone, forcing Marc-Andre Fleury to make a number of key saves.
In the third, the Jets again had the better chances and it remained a one-goal game until the Jets got into penalty trouble. A very questionable call on Zach Redmond for interference followed by Mark Stuart getting called for tripping gave Pittsburgh a two-man advantage for 1:36. Not the team to put up two men, as out came Malkin, Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz. The Jets did a terrific job on the PK, but with eight seconds left in the Redmond penalty, Neal scored his league-leading seventh power play goal with assists to Crosby and Malkin. It was the Pens only shot on the 5-on-3.
Jets pulled Pavelec for the extra attacker and captain Andrew Ladd scored his seventh of the year and fifth in his last six games to make it a one-goal game with assists to Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler). Wheeler had a great chance to tie it but missed the net, and Adams scored into the empty net to put it away for the Pens.
Eric Tangradi played his first game as a Jet and put in a solid effort with 12:42 of ice time, one shot on goal and four hits. Little was over 20 minutes for the fifth straight game while winning 12 of 20 face-offs. Bogosian played 25:38 in his return with one shot on goal and three blocked shots. Ron Hainsey again led in ice time with 28:17.
After picking up a point from a defenceman in every game, the Jets have now gone three games without. In 13 games, the Jets have scored first in only four, and in 13 first periods, the Jets have scored seven goals, three in the last nine first periods.
The power play has gone 0-10 in the last four games, and to further outline the scoring troubles, Olli Jokinen has gone pointless in six and Evander Kane has gone eight without a goal. With just 33 goals in 13 games, including six in the last four, and a look at the team's individual stat sheet will clearly show the lack of scoring.
But let's go back to the start. The Jets did a lot of good things, but Fleury was better as he increased his already impressive road numbers. The Jets are now 5-7-1 for the season and 3-4 at home. The much talked about penalty kill has not allowed a goal in 13 of the last 16 opportunities.
Losing Enstrom early seemed to rattle the Jets after three or four good shifts to start the game. "It made us nervous," is how Noel put it after the game. "He was in big pain when he came off."
Coach Noel felt his team perhaps deserved better, but would not comment on the penalty call on Redmond.
"We battled hard in the second and a goal would have helped," said Noel. "It would have really gotten the crowd into it. But I thought that all in all, our game and our effort and our battle level was a lot better. Pretty much every player battled hard. The guys gave what they had."
Noel liked the play of both Bogosian and Tangradi.
"Bogosian was solid and had lots of energy. Tough game to play with only five guys in the group. Tangradi was physical and made plays. I liked his game."
Jets meet the Boston Bruins at MTS Centre Sunday at 5pm ct. (TSN Jets, TSN 1290) and then hit the road for nine of the next 11 games.