PITTSBURGH - The timing could not have been worse for the Winnipeg Jets.
They arrived at the Consol Energy Center hoping to straighten out their road woes. But there wasn't a hockey team on the planet that would have beaten Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday.
The Penguins were an angry but excited group. They were angry because they blew a two-goal lead in the third period against the rival Philadelphia Flyers and lost in overtime on Sunday. They were excited because this was No. 87's first home game in more than three months.
They made amends with a thrilling offensive display in an 8-4 victory to move within a point of the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers.
"You can't really match up against a team like that," said Jets centre Bryan Little, who scored twice for his club."It's demoralizing. It was a frustrating game because we were in there at one point and let it slip away."
True, the Jets were in the game at one point. In fact, they were ahead 2-1 midway through the first period and evened the score at 3-3 early in the second period. But the Jets were not going to continue to match the offensive depth of Malkin, Crosby, James Neal and other Penguins as this game pushed on. This was a no-win situation.
"I liked our start," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said. "It just seemed that they scored on every chance they had."
If the Jets have plans on lassoing a playoff berth for their devoted faithful in this first season back in the NHL, they know they have to get their act together on the road. Only the 30th-place Columbus Blue Jackets have fewer road wins than the Jets' 11 victories away from the raucous MTS Centre this season.
After their challenging evening in Pittsburgh, six of the Jets final nine regular-season games are on the road. They put themselves in a strenuous situation on Sunday after they allowed the Carolina Hurricanes to score a 4-3 come-from-behind win at the MTS Centre.
Since that devastating defeat, the Jets talked plenty about what had to change in their road games. They needed a better start. They needed to perform more efficiently on special teams. They needed to tighten up defensively and their determination around the puck had to improve.
Well, they didn't get off to a good start because Pittsburgh's Tyler Kennedy scored two minutes in. They gave up a power-play goal, but scored one, too. Defensively? Well, you know the story.
They simply committed too many turnovers. They gave the mighty Penguins too much space to roam and exhibit their skill.
So, it's back to the drawing board for the 10th-place Jets. With another game gone from the schedule, they head to Washington to play the eighth-place Capitals in the hopes they can cut the Capitals lead to two points on Friday.
"It's the biggest game of the year," said Little, no doubt relieved that it's not another game against the Penguins.
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