Jonathan Toews came home on Sunday night and scored the winning goal. Nobody loves playing in front of the home crowd more than the guy they call Capt. Serious.
“I always have plenty of friends and family here so it’s an exciting place to play for me,” said Toews after he and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-3. “It’s nice to get the winner anytime. It was great tonight.”
Toews deflected a shot from the point off the stick of Niklas Hjalmarsson at 19:29 of the third period to cap a third period Hawks comeback and hand the Jets only their second regulation loss at home since Jan. 13.
“It was big considering the difference it makes,” Toews added. “Getting two points instead of just one more than them. It was a big game for both teams, so it was nice to scrape our way back into that one and find a way to win at the end there.
“I think we did a lot of good things, and we made a few mistakes that ended up in the back of our net. But for the most part, we didn’t give up much. So I think all four lines brought a lot tonight.”
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Jets. It was especially heartbreaking because Toews’ winner came only 31 seconds from the end of regulation time – and what would have been a guaranteed point.
“I thought we played a pretty good game, an up-tempo game,” said the Jets’ Adam Lowry, who turned 22 on Sunday. “To lose in the last minute really stings, but we’d better forget it quickly because we have the New York Rangers coming in on Tuesday.”
The Jets took a 3-2 lead into the third period on a pair of goals by Dustin Byfuglien, his 17th and 18th of the year, and Blake Wheeler’s 25th. Byfuglien’s second goal came on the power play with just 26 seconds remaining in the second period.
However, in the third period, Patrick Sharp tied the game at 6:27 as he went in on a breakaway and beat Ondrej Pavelec with a near-perfect shot to the glove side. Sharp got the breakaway because Jets defenseman Toby Enstrom got his stick tangled up in a linesman’s skate and then fell to the ice while trying to corral the loose puck.
“It was a pretty even game throughout,” said Lowry. “We had some good chances and they had some good chances, but we got a bad break when Toby lost his stick and Patrick Sharp went in and scored to tie it and then we lost on a deflected shot from the point. Losing like that is pretty tough to take, but credit the Blackhawks. They played a pretty good road game.”
The Jets outshot Chicago 34-24 and essentially had territorial control throughout the game. In the end, however, Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford was just better than the Jets Ondrej Pavelec, who had his six-game winning streak stopped. The Jets have now won six of eight, but Sunday night’s loss really stung.
“It’s a tough loss,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice quietly. “You’re not taking away any of the pain or frustration by anything you say today, so we’ll talk in the morning. (The play with Enstrom) is like an injury. You’re mad about it when happens, but there isn’t anything you can do about it. I’m sure the linesman feels worse than anybody in the building.
“It was a tough loss for us. We’ll deal with it tomorrow and we’ll be done with it by the time we hit the ice tomorrow.”
Andrew Ladd didn’t score a goal but he did dish out his 36th and 37th assists of the season. Ladd now has 61 points on the campaign. With an assist, Drew Stafford now has a nine-game points streak. During that streak, he has four goals and seven assists.
However, with the loss, the 39-25-12 Jets remained in seventh place in the West, one point ahead of eighth-place Calgary, 5-2 winners in Nashville (Brandon’s Michael Ferland scored the winning goal for the Flames). Both teams have six games remaining. The Los Angeles Kings are ninth with 88 points, two back of Winnipeg. The Kings have seven games left this season.
“We’d better forget that loss and be ready to play on Tuesday,” said Lowry. “That’s a good New York Rangers team coming in here, but we’ve been a pretty resilient bunch all season long. We just to come out and play our best again on Tuesday night.”
Tuesday’s game against the Rangers begins at 7 p.m. It’s on TSN3.