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Red-hot Avalanche bury slumping Jets early in 5-1 win – Winnipeg

After winning just one game on a four-game road trip out East, the Winnipeg Jets were hoping a return to home ice Friday night would help them find their game.

That did not happen. Not even close.

The Jets looked outclassed from the opening puck drop as they were humbled by the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 to fall behind Colorado in points percentage in the standings.

Nathan MacKinnon scored just 19 seconds into the game and the Avalanche never looked back.

“We were asleep to start the game,” said head coach Rick Bowness. “Our eyes told us that we were asleep to start the game. There’s no excuses. It’s just we were asleep.

“Every once and awhile this game is going to test your character. And it’s going to test your pride. And that game on Sunday will be an example. We just got embarrassed, so again let’s see how we respond.”

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Colorado scored four goals on only five shots in the first 11 minutes of the game and the Jets couldn’t find a way to respond in the final 49 minutes.

“They capitalized on their chances,” said Jets defenceman Brenden Dillon. “They were quicker to pucks. They were physical. We got humbled tonight.

“We know the importance of tonight, and there’s just no excuses for how that went tonight.”

The loss ended a three game home win streak for the Jets who’ve now lost four of their last five games overall.

Mason Appleton scored their lone goal on the power play in the loss.

“We’re a really good hockey team when we want to be,” said Appleton. “And we were not that tonight. And I think maybe we give the best guys a little much credit, and little too much space out there. We got to find a way to smother those guys.

“We got to be better defensively, and we can’t hang the best goalie in the league out to dry.”

Connor Hellebucyk was pulled from the game to start the third after allowing five goals on 26 shots, but their goaltending was the least of their problems.

“I wasn’t worried about the goaltending,” said Bowness. “You see the shots they had. They had all day to shoot. What do you want our goalie to do there ? Nothing.”

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READ MORE: ANALYSIS: With trade deadline a week away, what will Jets do?

The defending champs wasted no time getting on the board as MacKinnon got free for a breakaway and beat Hellebuyck just 19 seconds into the contest.

Winnipeg got back even a short time later on the power play when Appleton tipped a Nate Schmidt point shot past Alexandar Georgiev at the 3:12 mark.

That was the only highlight of a disastrous first period for Winnipeg.

80 seconds after Winnipeg tied the game, Mikko Rantanen was sprung on a 2-on-1, walked in on Hellebuyck and beat the goalie with a perfectly placed shot.

Three minutes after that, a Josh Manson point shot hit J.T. Compher in front of the net and skittered past Hellebuyck.

Only 3:24 later, Bowen Byram was given all kinds of time and space to walk in from the point and he made no mistake, snapping one high past Hellebuyck to give Colorado four goals on just five shots.

The crowd even gave a Bronx cheer when Hellebuyck stopped a routine point shot moments later, which seemed a tad cruel considering how little help he was getting from his team.

Valeri Nichuchkin nearly made it 5-1 later in the period but he wired it off the post.

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A second power play to close out the period for Winnipeg bore no fruit and even produced a few boos from the disappointed crowd.

Things did not improve in the second.

Just past the midway point, Matt Nieto was left completely unchecked in front of the Winnipeg net and redirected a pass from Compher past Hellebuyck to make it 5-1.

Colorado was given a great opportunity to further stretch their lead when Pierre-Luc Dubois was called for cross-checking and was then given an extra two minutes for yapping at the ref, but the Avs couldn’t cash in as it stayed 5-1 through 40 minutes.

Hellebuyck was given the rest of the night off after the second, getting the hook for the second time this season.

Not much happened in the third period. Both teams missed on some power play tries, the Jets continued to struggle to score, many fans left before the final horn sounded, and several of those who stayed let out a hearty boo when the game ended.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Jets need to find winning ways against Eastern Conference opponents

The Jets will try to bounce back Sunday afternoon when they host the Islanders, who just beat Winnipeg Wednesday night on Long Island. Pregame coverage on 680 CJOB begins at 12:30 p.m. with the puck dropping just after 2:30 p.m.

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