Jets lose 8-3 to Tampa Bay

By: Adam Wazny | Saturday, February 2

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ryan Malone (12) deflects a shot on Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec (31) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Feb. 1, 2013, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)


Pull the pin and toss the suggestion that the Winnipeg Jets earned points for showing a pulse in the third period in Tampa Bay Friday night.

Blow up this notion. It doesn't exist. The game was long over.

It's no great secret what buried the Jets in the 8-3 dismantling at the hands of the Lightning: penalties and poor penalty killing. Winnipeg allowed three power play goals in the first period -- including two scores on separate 5-on-3 man disadvantages -- en route to a third straight loss and a sub-.500 record (3-4-1) for the first time this season.

The Jets have three days off until their next game.

The break couldn't come at a better time.

Yes, Friday's embarrassment was sent to the presses following the first period, just after Jets forward Chris Thorburn took a 5-minute major for boarding on Tampa defenceman Sami Salo. The major classification was up for debate but in today's NHL, the hit counts as a penalty. No matter. That's not where the Jets found trouble.

How they responded to the adversity was the problem.

Good teams find a way to minimize damage when asked to diffuse the bomb in front of them and in the inconsistent world of NHL officiating, fuses are lit all the time. The Jets couldn't figure out which wire to cut after the Thorburn penalty -- a major that should have been managed with minimal repercussions -- and the game blew up in their faces.

Already down 1-0 thanks to a power play goal from rookie Cory Conacher, Jets defenceman Ron Hainsey did exactly what a struggling team can't do against a potent offence like Tampa's: he shot the puck over the glass from his own zone, taking the automatic minor penalty for delay of game 36 seconds into Thorburn's major.

Winnipeg's laughable, last-place-in-the-league penalty kill was no match against the likes of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, and the Lightning scored with the two-man advantage. Boom.

That made the score 2-0 Tampa, but there was no need to panic: the damage from a Jets perspective was still manageable. At least it was until Mark Stuart took another minor -- this one for an unnecessary crosscheck behind his own net -- with 1:07 left on the original major.  Boom: another Lightning 5-on-3 man advantage, and boom: another Lightning power play goal.

Make the score three-zip and the party was on.

The Bolts added three more in the second period, chased Winnipeg starter Ondrej Pavelec from the net and cruised to a fifth straight win. Winnipeg, meanwhile, limps out a road trip surrendering 18 goals in three games and with more questions than answers.

It's not that the Jets lost to a superior Tampa team, it's how they did it. Go back to coach Claude Noel's meandering tirade following the Florida loss Thursday. Recall his frustration on how his group couldn't identify key moments of the game and adjust their play accordingly. He even referenced some disturbing habits from the 2011-12 season showing up of late.

Those traits have exploded onto the scene again.

What we saw Friday -- two veteran defencemen, two guys leaned on to lead a young blue-line, taking careless, ill-timed penalties with the club already down a man against the highest scoring team in the league -- was a prime example of what Noel was taking about. Forget the officiating or subjective bad luck: Winnipeg was its own worst enemy against Tampa.

Instead of finding some awareness in the moment, or finding a way to handle a little misfortune, they lit their own fuse and watched the Lightning dance under the fireworks.

Boom. Boom. Boom. Out go the lights.

The Jets host the Panthers Tuesday night. Game time is 7 o'clock.

Opinion

Adam Wazny is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer who has covered sports in the city for over a decade. He has worked as a reporter for both the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun, and now spends most of his time checking his Twitter. Did someone say Twitter? Find him here: @wazoowazny.

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