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Winnipeg Jets vs Arizona Coyotes recap: Not ready to rumble

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The Winnipeg Jets defeated the Arizona Coyotes 6-2 on Thursday night.

Christian Petersen

The glitz and glamour of opening night spanned as far as the eye could see. There were new pre-game intro graphics and an on-ice light show. To top it all off, the one and only Michael Buffer introduced the 2014-15 Arizona Coyotes in a way only he can.

Are you ready to rumble?

The Arizona Coyotes looked to put a so-so offseason, ownership drama and two years of playoff-less hockey behind them and wipe the slate clean with a win to open the 2014-15 season.

Well, the Coyotes were not ready to rumble.

An atrocious opening period doomed the Coyotes on Thursday night. Shoddy defense and even worse goaltending put the Coyotes way behind the 8-ball. Winnipeg scored four goals in the first period and never looked back.

Mike Smith had a rough night in net to say the least, giving up six goals on 27 shots. The defense hung him out to dry a couple times, but more often than not, the 32-year-old got beat on very savable shots.

In contrast, Ondrej Pavelec was solid in net, stopping 26 of 28 shots to give the Winnipeg Jets their first win of the season.

Blake Wheeler victimized Smith on a pair of soft goals to give the Jets a lead they would never relinquish.

"The goaltending has to get better," coach Dave Tippett. "If the goaltending doesn't get better then we're going to struggle."

The Coyotes came out flat, mustering very little attack to start the game.

"I think we just didn't come to play -- we weren't ready," Martin Hanzal said.

"I think every single person has to look in the mirror and ask himself (why he was not ready)," Hanzal said. "I wasn't ready, I have to be better -- every single guy has to be better."

Bryan Little opened Winnipeg's offensive showcase with a top shelf goal after receiving the pass on a 2-on-1. The Coyotes answered right back 38 seconds later when Mikkel Boedker found a soft spot in the middle of the ice and fired the puck past Pavelec to tie the game.

That would be all the offense Arizona would muster in the opening frame.

Smith had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad period.

The Jets took advantage of one of the worst periods of Smith's career, scoring three very soft goals. Wheeler scored two of them: a five-hole goal as the Coyotes netminder was resetting after playing the puck behind the net and another five-hole goal that just slipped between Smith's legs. The two goals happened 15 seconds apart.

Mart Stuart added a tally of his own on a shot that just snuck under Smith's pads and a few inches into the net to bring the score to 4-1.

A worse start is hard to imagine.

The Coyotes picked up the pace to start the second period, but were unable to get another puck past Pavelec. Any momentum was crushed as Wheeler added to his great offensive performance, earning an assist on a 2-on-1 cross-ice pass to big Dustin Byfuglien.

Little continued Winnipeg's barrage with a short-handed goal early in the third period, his second goal of the night.

Arizona attempted to limp back into the fight with a Hanzal rebound goal, but it was too little, too late.

"We know how we have to play, we just didn't bring it tonight," Hanzal said. "That's what you have to bring on Saturday or you won't be a playoff team -- simple as that."

Things are not getting any easier for the Coyotes as they will attempt to rebound on Saturday night against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

Paw Prints

  • Winnipeg's perspective: Arctic Ice Hockey
  • Going back to last season, Wheeler has 21 points in his last 16 games.
  • Doan's two assists were his 13th and 14th career season opening points.
  • The Coyotes got physical early on as B.J. Crombeen, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Doan each landed a few punches, the latter was the only one to have an official fight.
  • Attendance: 17,125

Three Stars

1. Blake Wheeler - Two goals, three points in an all-round great offensive night.

2. Ondrej Pavelec - Stopped 26 of 28 shots, played a solid game after Yotes' resurgence.

3. Bryan Little - Two goals including a shorty.

Looking Ahead

The Coyotes remain at home for the second game of a four-game homestand as they take on the Kings. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Gila River Arena.