Winnipeg Jets secure home ice in round 1 of playoffs with 4-3 win over Seattle

When the Winnipeg Jets open the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Colorado Avalanche in a matter of days, Game 1 will be played in Manitoba.

The Jets confirmed that by taking down the Seattle Kraken 4-3 Tuesday night, clinching second place in the Central Division with their seventh straight win in front of another sellout crowd at Canada Life Centre.

Kyle Connor scored a pair of goals and six different Jets players had multi-point nights in the victory.

The Jets built up a two-goal lead, only to watch it vanish in the second period. But Tyler Toffoli scored the only goal of the third on the power play to secure home ice advantage in the first round.

“Obviously that’s what we wanted to do tonight,” said Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers. “It wasn’t beautiful all the way through, but we got it done, and that’s what’s important.”

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It was the Jets 51st win of the season, which is just one shy of their team record set back in 2018. They’re 34-0 this season when scoring at least four goals.

It’s just the fifth time in franchise history the Jets will start the playoffs at home.

“Nice to get it out of the way in this game,” said Connor. “I thought we stuck with it, the ups and downs of the game, no matter what we stuck up for each other, supported each other when we didn’t make the plays that we needed to. And just a kind of gritty win there to pull it out.”

While the Jets have been a whole lot more consistent in the second half of their current win streak, they once again had too many giveaways in the second period to allow the Kraken to get back in the game.

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“The second period was all just terrible puck management, it had nothing to do with structure,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “It was just puck management, all of it. But they recognized that too, right. Now okay we’re feeding their transition, we’re giving them opportunities. We let them get back in the game just with our puck possession, our puck management. That’s really the biggest issue we had in the second period.”

The Jets are the hottest team in the NHL on the eve of the playoffs and haven’t allowed four goals in a game in their last eight straight contests, while outscoring the opposition 31-13 during the current win streak.

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It was one of the few games this season the Jets have had a completely healthy lineup, but Morgan Barron left the game in the first period after falling awkwardly near the boards.

“We’ll probably know more tomorrow morning,” Bowness said. “We’ll see him get re-evaluated.”

Just past the midway point of the first period, Connor regained the team lead in goals when he opened the scoring. Mark Scheifele had the puck behind the Seattle net and Connor eluded coverage in front where Scheifele found him for his 33rd goal of the season at 10:33.

The Kraken answered back with just 1:22 remaining when Tomas Tatar fired a shot past a screened Connor Hellebuyck to tie the game.

But with 5.8 seconds left in the period, Connor restored Winnipeg’s lead when he received a pass from Josh Morrissey, faked a pass that sent Seattle goalie Philipp Grubauer out of position and potted his second of the night.

It was a low-event first period with Seattle outshooting Winnipeg 8-6.

Early in the second, the Jets doubled their lead. A low shot on goal from Toffoli created a big rebound that bounced off a Kraken defender and landed near the goal line where a diving Ehlers knocked it home to make it 3-1 at the 2:30 mark.

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Seattle answered back at the 5:11 mark when Yanni Gourde got a piece of a shot that was going wide of the net and sent it past Hellebuyck.

Late in the period, the Kraken found the equalizer after some sustained pressure in the Winnipeg end. The tired Jets tried to break the puck out of their own end but Neal Pionk overskated the puck in the slot, gifting Seattle a 2-on-none. Gourde faked a shot before passing to Tye Kartye who beat a helpless Hellebuyck to level the score after 40 minutes.

The game stayed tied past the midway point of the third before Winnipeg capitalized on their second power play chance of the game.

Josh Morrissey nearly put the Jets ahead with Jared McCann in the box when he rang one off the crossbar, but it was the team’s second power play unit who put them ahead.

Ehlers had the puck at the point and hit Toffoli in the slot, who made a good move before backhanding the puck into an open net to make it 4-3 Winnipeg with 8:20 remaining.

A Ryker Evans double-minor for high-sticking with 6:29 to go gave Winnipeg a great opportunity to shut the door on Seattle but the Kraken managed to kill it off.

Seattle pulled Grubauer for an extra attacker with 40 seconds to go but ran out of time before they could generate any kind of push.

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Hellebuyck stopped 20 shots in the win, his 37th of the season.

Winnipeg will wrap up the regular season Thursday night at home against Vancouver. The pregame show begins at 5 p.m. on 680 CJOB with puck drop just after 7 p.m.

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