The Carolina Hurricanes could point to their 27 missed shots Friday, including a big one by defenseman Tomas Kaberle late in the game, and talk about all the blown opportunities.
But that would be so much wasted breath.
The reason the Hurricanes were beaten 3-1 by the Winnipeg Jets was that the Jets were the quicker, tougher team this night. Everybody in both locker rooms knew it.
Quick? Winnipeg's Evander Kane showed off his speed in the first period, forcing a turnover in the Jets' zone, wheeling past defenseman Jamie McBain and leading a two-on-one rush that ended with a shot off the iron and past Cam Ward.
Tough? Jets captain Andrew Ladd was relentless in front of the Canes' net in the second period, outfighting Kaberle to knock the puck past Ward for a 2-1 lead.
Bryan Little's empty-netter with nine seconds left finished it off for Winnipeg (9-9-4), which has beaten Carolina twice this season.
"They were just more physical than we were, faster than we were," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "We missed the net 27 times and 15 giveaways and that's the game. But they were faster and stronger than we were and we weren't able to do anything with that."
Jets backup goalie Chris Mason, given his first start since Oct. 24, had little work the first two periods. Just 11 Carolina shots were on net as the Canes rifled pucks into the glass and dented the boards.
Jiri Tlusty did beat Mason 5 minutes, 17 seconds into the second, double-clutching before shooting and tying the score 1-1 with his fourth goal of the season. But Ladd scored 68 seconds later, the eighth of the season for the former Canes forward.
The Canes (8-12-4) spent too much time bottled up in their zone and futilely tried to get the puck through the neutral zone to establish a consistent forecheck.
"Once the shot was taken by them or by us, our reaction speed to get back on the puck needed to be a little better than it was," Carolina captain Eric Staal said.
The Canes did have 10 shots in the final period and Kaberle had a chance to tie the score 2-2 with 1:53 left in regulation. Jeff Skinner made a cross-ice pass from the right wing and Kaberle was looking at an open net, only to tip the puck into the side of the cage.
Mason has two wins this season, both against the Canes. The veteran relieved Ondrej Pavelec early in the Oct. 22 game in Winnipeg, stopping 18 of 19 shots in a 5-3 win, and had 20 saves Friday.
Mason now is 4-2-1 against the Canes in his career with a 1.30 goals-against average and .953 save percentage.
The Canes' backup goalie, Brian Boucher, was hit in the head by a flying puck into the bench area late in the second period. Boucher was taken to the locker room for treatment and did not return, and Maurice said the Canes would not know until today if he would be available for the Sunday road game in Ottawa.
The Canes had two power plays early in the first period, but the Jets killed off both penalties and were energized by the kills, outshooting the Canes 27-11 in the first two periods. Carolina was 0-for-4 on the power play in the game.
"It was a man's game tonight," said Canes winger Anthony Stewart, who played with many of the Jets in Atlanta last season as a member of the Thrashers. "They were taking the body to us."
With 10 home games in November, the Canes were looking to move up the NHL's Eastern Conference standings. Instead they're 3-5-1 with only one home game left this month, against the resurgent Florida Panthers.
"We've got to figure out a way to start winning here," forward Brandon Sutter said.