STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS: Jets blow lead and lose Game 1
WINNIPEG--For a little bit, everything seemed like 2018. The Winnipeg Jets scored early and got their raucous whiteout crowd into the playoff game. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck made timely saves. And it appeared like the struggles of the last month a...
WINNIPEG-For a little bit, everything seemed like 2018.
The Winnipeg Jets scored early and got their raucous whiteout crowd into the playoff game. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck made timely saves. And it appeared like the struggles of the last month and a half were just going to be blips on the radar.
But ultimately, this is not 2018.
The Jets once again gave up a third-period lead and will now have to climb out of a hole in their first-round series with the red-hot St. Louis Blues.
St. Louis scored twice in the third period to rally past Winnipeg 2-1 on Wednesday night in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series in Bell MTS Place.
It marked the fourth time in seven games that the Jets have given up a third-period lead.
"It's always tough to lose a game in the third," said Jets forward Patrik Laine, who scored Winnipeg's lone goal. "That should be our focus in the future.
"We've had a couple of those where they score the winning goal in the last two minutes. It's always tough, but that's how it goes sometimes. We still had two minutes to go out and time the game, but couldn't do it. So we have to go and focus on the next game."
During last season's run to the Western Conference Final, Winnipeg made a habit out of winning Game 1 at home.
They did it in the first round against the Wild. They did it again in the second round against Nashville. And the Jets had a 1-0 series lead against Vegas, too, before losing four straight.
"We expected this one to go seven," Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler said. "Seven really close games. Didn't go our way tonight."
There were early signs that Winnipeg could turn things around despite a rocky last two months.
They were finally back at full strength at defense as Josh Morrissey played his first game since Feb. 24. Dustin Byfuglien, who missed half of the season with injuries, also played, marking just the sixth time since Jan. 1 that Winnipeg had both in the lineup.
Laine, who finished the regular season with one goal in 19 games, rifled a wrist shot past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington in the first period.
"I wasn't particularly worried about the last stretch we went through," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said.
But in the third, the Blues took over.
They tied the game on a David Perron point shot through traffic just 4:05 into the frame. And after generating several Grade-A chances to take the lead, they finally did with just 2:05 remaining in the third.
St. Louis forward Patrick Maroon protected the puck from a pair of Jets players below the goal line, then shoveled a pass to Tyler Bozak in the slot. Bozak sniped a shot past Hellebuyck for the winner.
"It was good, playoff hockey," Maurice said. "It wasn't an open game and it's not breaking loose in this series. It's going to be almost like that all the way through."