Ex-Bruin Wheeler turns on the Jets
WINNIPEG - Last night at the MTS Centre, Ondrej Pavelec stopped 31 pucks in Winnipeg’s 4-2 win over the Bruins. Of Pavelec’s saves, only one was a show-stopper.
At 7:13 of the third period, with Pavelec’s team down by two goals, Patrice Bergeron snapped a short-range shot on net. Pavelec flashed his glove and snatched Bergeron’s shot to keep Winnipeg’s two-goal lead intact.
The rest of Pavelec’s night was routine.
The Winnipeg goalie shooed off the Bruins’ feeble attempts at creating offense. For most of the night, the Bruins were a one-and-done team that never placed a whisper of sustained offensive pressure on the Jets. If last night were a football game, the Bruins would have been three downs and out on just about every one of their offensive drives.
“No sustained pressure. No puck time in there,’’ coach Claude Julien said of his team’s second period. “Besides Bergy’s line, there wasn’t much going on. I think we only had a couple scoring chances at best. And that’s not going to do it. If you don’t spend much time there, it means you’re spending time in your own end.’’
In the Boston zone, old friend Blake Wheeler inflicted most of the punishment. In the second period, Wheeler squeezed off a shot from the slot that squeaked past Tuukka Rask.
In the third, Wheeler helped bust a 2-2 tie by assisting on a pair of Bryan Little goals. David Krejci gave his team some life with a close-range goal at 0:49 of the third, tying the game at 2.
“We got that big goal in the third early that we thought would maybe give us momentum,’’ Bergeron said. “It really didn’t go that way. We gave them too much space in our zone. They’re good players.’’
The Jets roared back with two quick strikes. After his teammates won several puck races along the boards, Wheeler wound up for a slap shot from the point. His shot appeared to skim off Daniel Paille and change directions. Rask stayed with the shot, but the change of pace kept the goalie from steering the rebound out of harm’s way. Little kicked the rebound to his blade and swept a shot past Rask at 4:16 of the third to give the Jets a 3-2 lead.
Just more than two minutes later, Little attacked again. As Wheeler stickhandled along the left-side half-wall, Little blew past Milan Lucic and drove to the far post. Wheeler saw his linemate and whistled a cross-crease pass to Little’s stick. Little buried his shot at 6:20 to stretch Winnipeg’s lead to 4-2.
“Some poor mistakes in our D-zone coverage left those guys wide open,’’ Julien said. “That left Tuukka to hang.’’
Rask (21 saves) wasn’t at his sharpest. In the second period, after taking a cross-ice pass from Mark Stuart, Alexander Burmistrov snapped a top-shelf shot over Rask at 1:59.
“It wasn’t the hardest shot ever, but it caught me in a good spot,’’ Rask said. “I made the wrong save selection there. I should have probably used my shoulder. But give credit to him. Pretty good shot.’’
Rask was less pleased with Wheeler’s second-period goal. The forwards were caught up the ice and couldn’t apply enough back pressure to Wheeler, who had taken a drop pass from Dustin Byfuglien. Wheeler didn’t put much muscle on his shot, but had enough time to pick his spot between Rask’s pads.
Rask had little support from his teammates. In the second period, Chris Kelly caused a neutral-zone turnover that led to Jordan Caron’s tying goal at 6:10. In the first minute of the third, a slick dish from Tyler Seguin gave Krejci his point-blank chance.
That was all the Bruins could generate. Even in the first, when they outshot the Jets by a 13-4 margin, they didn’t get enough quality sniffs on Pavelec to bust a 0-0 deadlock.
“We’ve got to find a way and find answers,’’ Bergeron said. “It’s way too much up and down right now. It’s not even close to the effort and what we need right now. We’re working hard, but we’re not working smart. It hurts us so much when we do that, get away from our game, and get away from our system. That’s when they get chances and they score.’’
The Bruins hoped they had started their six-game road trip with a solid first effort. They topped the Canadiens in the shootout Wednesday, 4-3. But after dropping last night’s game, they have now gone more than a month without consecutive wins.
Too many peaks and valleys. Too little offense. Not enough answers.