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Lightning journal: Vasilevskiy sits in loss to Jets

Winnipeg Jets' Bryan Little (18) fires the puck past Tampa Bay Lightning's goaltender Louis Domingue (70) with Yanni Gourde (37) trying to check him during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP) WPGT119
Winnipeg Jets' Bryan Little (18) fires the puck past Tampa Bay Lightning's goaltender Louis Domingue (70) with Yanni Gourde (37) trying to check him during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP) WPGT119
Published Jan. 31, 2018

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — There was a moment when Tuesday's game shifted on the Lightning, and that moment was the delay of game penalty on Chris Kunitz early in the second period.

Not only did Lightning coach Jon Cooper question the call, but Braydon Coburn was already in the penalty box serving a two-minute tripping penalty.

"Five-on-threes are obviously tough to stop and then they capitalized," Brayden Point said.

Patrik Laine scored when he took a cross-ice pass from Blake Wheeler and fired the puck past Lightning backup G Louis Domingue to tie the score at 1.

The Lightning could survive that. It has answered goals like that plenty of times this season.

This time it didn't.

"I felt at that point we couldn't come back," Point said. "They started to skate. They got physical and we couldn't answer."

Less than 30 seconds after the Lightning went on the power play in the second period when Nikita Kucherov was tripped, Vladislav Namestnikov was called for interference, negating the man-advantage. And when the Jets scored less than two minutes later, well, that was basically the game.

The Jets won 3-1 at the Bell MTS place, behind G Michael Hutchinson, who made his first start of the season after starting the AHL All-Star Game on Monday. He stopped 23 of 24 shots to end a three-game winning streak for the Lightning (34-13-3).

The Central Division-leading Jets (30-13-8) improved to 18-3-1 at home.

D Victor Hedman returned from his lower-body injury two days ahead of the original timetable that called for him to miss 3-6 weeks.

"It was okay," Hedman said. "Expect (to play) better, but I felt good."

The Lightning was 0-for-4 on the power play, extending its goal-less streak with the man advantage to four games.

"It was probably a little indicative of how our game is going," Cooper said. "When we're playing a team 5-on-5 game, usually the power play follows suit, but we weren't on it. And then when the power play went out (with the penalty on Namestnikov) it actually sucked the life out of us a little bit."

The play during the first period was even when both backup goalies — the Lightning started Domingue — made big saves and both got a tad lucky on a few rebounds that went uncontested.

But things changed in the second when the Lightning was outshot 15-9 and outscored 2-0.

The Lightning took a 1-0 lead in the first period when Matthew Peca took a pass from Point to set up a one-on-one with Hutchinson that Peca won. It was his first goal of the season and second point in two games.

"I thought we came out good," Point said. "I thought the first period was kind of back and forth and we were skating. They started taking it to us in the second and we couldn't answer."

Said Hedman: "I think they were the better team. No question about that. I expect more out of ourselves against Calgary."

That's where this four-game, post-All-Star Game road trip through central and western Canada continues Thursday.

"I think we have to up our compete a little more," Tyler Johnson said. "I felt there were definitely points in the game the Jets were playing a lot harder than us, and that can't happen. That's on us, and it has to get better the next game."

Number of the day

20.2 Yanni Gourde's shooting percentage entering Tuesday game, tops in the NHL among all rookies and tied for fifth overall with Boston's Brad Marchand.

Sergachev returns

D Mikhail Sergachev returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in the past two games.

The rookie's play has tailed off a bit as his first full season in the NHL wears on, with a minus-6 in his past eight games. The frustration bubbled to the surface in a game at Chicago in which he yelled at a referee and threw a towel, an outburst that earned him a four-minute misconduct penalty. He sat the next two games.

Sergachev played a team-high 8 minutes, 37 seconds in the first period.

Mirror image?

The Jets are shattering the image that all Western Conference teams are big and physical.

Cooper said the Jets are beginning to resemble teams you see in the East, especially his squad.

"There's a lot of depth up front on both teams. There's speed," Cooper said. "I know everybody talks about Winnipeg being a big, physical team. Really in the end, that's not their trademark anymore. They're a fast, up and down team that plays with skill."

Cooper said the Jets have "high-end" players, though C Mark Scheifele (upper body) has not played since late December. LW Nikolaj Ehlers has 19 points and 37 assists. All-Star RW Blake Wheeler has 54 points. G Connor Helleybuyck is second in the league in wins.

"Two teams have a pretty good D-core, and Helleybuyck becomes our Vasi. They probably got the better on the coaching side," Cooper said while laughing, "but other than that it's two similar teams."

Contact Roger Mooney at rmooney@tampabay.com. Follow @rogermooney50.