TORONTO – The Winnipeg Jets saw another two-goal lead go to waste in another loss, but at least coach Claude Noel saw signs of progress.
“Winning’s a process and it takes time,” said Noel, who watched his club blow a 3-1 third-period advantage in a 4-3 shootout loss to the host Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night. “We’ve got to learn how to win and we’ve got to do it together…But we are what we are and as long as we give 100 per cent effort, that’s all I can ask for.”
Winnipeg dropped to 1-3-1 with the defeat, as the Jets have struggled in the early stages of the 2011-12 season after 15 years out of the NHL. They’re happy to be back in the league, but unimpressive outings against Montreal and Phoenix–and blowing a two-goal lead against Chicago–have been a reality check for the young team. Their lone victory was a 2-1 decision over Pittsburgh on Monday.
“We couldn’t find a way to win tonight,” said Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who made a number of big saves despite facing just 23 shots. “It’s time to start winning games and play the whole 60 minutes.”
There were some positives for the Jets on Wednesday night, including the first goal from 18-year-old rookie centre Mark Scheifele.
The Jets power play coming alive with its first two goals after starting the season 0-for-17.
“It was a great moment for (Scheifele) to score tonight,” Pavelec said. “It was great to see him be happy.”
Scheifele corralled a rebound of a Dustin Byfuglien shot and deposited the puck past Leafs goalie James Reimer for a power-play goal midway through the second period.
“It’s good to see anybody scoring a goal,” said Noel, whose team has scored a total of 10 times in five games. “You look down the roster and we’ve got some guys who you’d expect to be scoring goals.”
A better power play is one way the Jets can jump-start the offence. Winnipeg went 2-for-4 against Toronto after failing to register a man-advantage goal in its first four games.
“The ability to get two power play goals is a good step for us,” said Scheifele, who was the team’s first-round draft pick (seventh overall) last June. “It’s important to take every game and learn something from it and to learn from the other players.”
That must be music to Noel’s ears as the coach tries to steer his side through a choppy start.
“We need to be more consistent, we need to get more from more people,” he said. “And we’ve got to be able to shut down games and that’s a learning process.”
In the meantime, the Jets grudgingly accepted the shootout loss and looked ahead to Thursday night’s tilt in Ottawa against the Senators, another struggling Canadian club (1-5-0).
“We got the single point, and tomorrow’s another day, another game,”Pavelec said.