Winnipeg Jets outlast Avalanche 7-6 to win chaotic Game 1

If Game 1 is any indication, the first round Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche is going to be a doozy.

In front of a sold out, rabid, whiteout crowd, the Jets escaped a wild series opener with a 7-6 win Sunday evening for their first playoff win on home ice in front of fans since Game 1 of the 2018 West Final.

Kyle Connor and Adam Lowry each notched a pair in the series opener. Connor also had an assist for a three-point night alongside linemate Mark Scheifele who had a goal and two assists.

The two teams combined for six even-strength goals in the span of under 10 minutes in the first period. It was just one tally short of the Stanley Cup Playoffs record for most goals in the opening period of a series.

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The Jets built up a three-goal lead in the final frame and the Avalanche stormed back to get within a single goal in the final minute, but the Jets hung on for a one-goal win to grab a 1-0 series lead.

“Maybe not the way we drew it up,” said Connor. “But sometimes you just got to play that game that’s in front of you. It kinda turned into a bit of a track meet there. We know we got better. Maybe a little nervous energy to start for us. I think once we started to get going, we can show that, obviously our depth is really key. I think all lines contributed.”

The Jets’ third line scored twice and the fourth line even found the scoresheet in the playoff opener.

A win is a win in the post-season, but it was far from a Picasso for the Jets as both teams had costly giveaways.

“Listen, we’ll never complain about a win, especially this time of year,” said head coach Rick Bowness. “So, we’re very happy to get that win and understanding that there’s areas that we’re going to be better. And we will. There’s things we’re going to clean up. It wasn’t exactly how we drew it up, but if that’s the way it goes, that’s the way it goes.

“It’s all three zones and puck management in all three zones. When they’re coming, when they’re carrying the puck in like they were tonight, then we’re clearly off our game. And if you turn the puck over, your structure is going to break down like right away. It’s puck management and yeah, just a little more playing the right way at the right time.”

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Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Interview – Apr. 21'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Interview – Apr. 21

The Jets tied a franchise record with seven goals in a single playoff game. It was the second straight meeting they hung a seven-spot on the Avs after a 7-0 shutout win last weekend.

Winnipeg was leading by one goal early in the third period when Lowry shot a puck that deflected off three goal posts and just barely crossed the goal line. It was initially waved off but was confirmed after a replay.

“From my angle, I felt like I could see a piece of white,” said Lowry. “But looking at the replay now I’m like, why was I so confident? But coming to back to the bench today, they seemed to think it was pretty conclusive, pretty solid right away. So, you never know though. It’s a little tense waiting for the confirmation. But it was nice that it just got enough.”

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Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Lowry & Connor Interviews – Apr. 21'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Lowry & Connor Interviews – Apr. 21

The building was rocking ahead of puck drop but the Avalanche immediately took the crowd out, outshooting the Jets 9-1 in the first four minutes.

Colorado rode that momentum to the game’s opening goal 6:10 into the first. As the Jets tried to change, Josh Manson sent the puck up to Valeri Nichushkin, who skated into the Winnipeg end down the right wing and ripped a perfect shot high over Connor Hellebuyck’s blocker.

It didn’t take long for the home team to answer.  Just 1:52 after the opener, a wrister off the stick of Josh Morrissey floated through a crowd and past Alexandar Georgiev to tie the game.

Less than four minutes later, the home team had the lead for the first time. As Josh Manson tried to move the puck up the boards from his own corner, Alex Iafallo got a stick on it, sending it careening to the slot where Vladislav Namestnikov was ready to wire it home to make it 2-1.

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Winnipeg’s lead lasted 2:50 before Colorado got even. Dylan Samberg coughed up the puck as he carried it from behind his own net. Joel Kiviranta carried the puck in front and as he tried to make a move, it jumped to the stick of Miles Wood who potted it to make it 2-2.

Just 18 seconds later, Nathan MacKinnon put the Avalanche back in front. After Winnipeg failed to clear the puck, Cale Makar passed it to Mikko Rantanen, who slid it to MacKinnon for a knuckler that fooled Hellebuyck and beat him five-hole.

The lead lasted all of 48 seconds. The Jets’ top line went to work in the Colorado end, leading to Gabriel Vilardi finding Scheifele in front for a tap-in to tie the game 3-3.

Colorado wound up outshooting the Jets 14-8 in the chaotic first period, and at one point had a 10-2 edge in the second period but couldn’t break the tie on the scoreboard.

The score stayed tied 3-3 until the 8:57 mark of the second when Lowry was sprung on a 2-on-1 with Mason Appleton. The Jets’ captain kept it and fired it five-hole on Georgiev to restore Winnipeg’s lead.

Winnipeg pushed for an insurance goal thanks in part to the game’s first power play but their lead stayed at one after 40 minutes, with Colorado outshooting Winnipeg 11-9 in the middle frame.

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If history were to be any indictor, the Jets were in great position to secure the ‘W’ as they went 37-1-1 in the regular season when leading after two periods and 35-0 when scoring four or more goals.

True to form, Winnipeg began to pull away early in the third. Lowry scored his second of the night 3:31 into the period, a huge insurance goal that was initially waved off. His shot hit both posts and skimmed along the goal line before being cleared down the ice, but video replay showed that, for one brief moment, the puck fully crossed the line to give the Jets a 5-3 lead.

2:20 later, with Winnipeg on a power play, Morrissey fed Connor for a one-timer that beat Georgiev to make it 6-3.

Colorado earned their first power play just ten seconds later and made good on the chance when Artturi Lehkonen tipped a Makar point shot past Hellebuyck to make it 6-4.

Connor’s second of the night at the 8:54 mark restored Winnipeg’s three-goal lead, his shot from in close glancing off the foot of Manson and over the glove of Georgiev.

The team’s continued to trade goals when Colorado answered back on their second power play of the game. A wrist shot from the point off the stick of Makar beat Hellebuyck through a screen to make it 7-5 with 7:36 to go.

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Colorado pulled Georgiev for an extra attacker with 3:21 remaining and pushed hard to cut the deficit, which they finally did with 27.1 seconds left a bouncing puck in the crease found its way past Hellebuyck.

That’s as close as the Avs would get as the Jets narrowly got to the finish line.

Hellebuyck made 39 saves in the win, while Georgiev turned aside 16 shots in defeat. Hellebuyck became the first goalie in NHL history to claim the victory in each of a franchise’s first 18 playoff wins.

Game 2 goes Tuesday night in Winnipeg with the puck dropping just after 8:30 p.m. Pregame coverage on 680 CJOB starts at 6:30.

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