Manitoba

'They've got to find another level': Jets fall into 2-0 hole in series against Blues

The Jets finally found their wings. It just wasn’t enough to fly past the St. Louis Blues and now they face a 2-0 deficit in their playoff series.

Series now heads to Missouri for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Tuesday

St. Louis Blues centre Ryan O'Reilly (90) celebrates his game-winning goal with teammates Colton Parayko (55) and Brayden Schenn (10) against the Winnipeg Jets Friday night. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

If this team was a real jet, it would be grounded for some emergency mechanical work.

Although the Jets finally found some wings on Friday — scoring more than one goal for the first time in four playoff games, dating back to last year —  it just wasn't enough to fly past the St. Louis Blues.

The Jets came up on the short end of a 4-3 score and now face a 2-0 deficit in their best-of-seven first round Stanley Cup playoff series.

Winnipeg had one of the NHL's best home records this season but have now lost five in a row at BellMTS Place. They've also lost nine of their last 12 games overall.

Friday's game also marked the first time Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck allowed more than three goals in 11 consecutive playoff starts dating back to last season.

The heckling that was once reserved for visiting goaltenders turned on the home side as fans spilled out of Bell MTS Place after the game.

"Hellebuyck sucks!" yelled one fan to no one in particular.

"Start looking for a new goalie," said another, forgetting Hellebuyck was a Vezina Trophy finalist for the NHL's best goalie last season.

Another concern would be Kevin Hayes, the highly-touted centre who came to the Jets at the trade deadline in February in exchange for Winnipeg's first-round pick in this summer's draft and plucky forward Brendan Lemieux.

Like many Jets fans, Teresa and Brian Pasieka came dressed in white to Friday's game, but went home feeling, should we say, blue? (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

Hayes was supposed to be the 2019 version of Paul Stastny, who was picked up by the Jets at last year's trade deadline and helped the team get to the Western Conference final before signing with Las Vegas in the off-season.

But Hayes was nearly invisible in Wednesday's Game 1 and was mostly warming the bench on Friday. He was given one shift in the third period by head coach Paul Maurice.

"It's going to be tough to come back from all of this," said fan Brian Pasieka. "I don't know what to say. It's frustrating. I'm sure the players are [frustrated] too."

There are some signs of hope, though they are fading, he said.

"They got a couple of power play goals, which is encouraging. Just got to keep battling," Pasieka said, but was at a loss as to what the Jets need to get over that edge.

"I'm not really sure to be honest. They need that other goal, that extra hit, something. Somehow, some way, they've got to find another level and bring it."

The Blues' Oskar Sundqvist scored on two-on-one break just over five minutes into the first period and the Jets' frustrations surfaced quickly.

Mark Scheifele took two interference calls in three minutes, the last one after levelling St. Louis star Ryan O'Reilly to the ice in front of the Jets bench.

Andrew Copp then took out O'Reilly with a cross-check and joined Scheifele, who had 17 seconds left in his penalty.

Winnipeg Jets centre Mark Scheifele scored late in the second period to tie the game against the the St. Louis Blues. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo rang a shot off the post behind Hellebuyck on the ensuing power play as St. Louis had Winnipeg scrambling. But the Jets penalty kill held strong and they seemed to get a boost from that, taking back the reins and feeding the Blues some of their own medicine.

Twenty seconds after Copp's penalty ended, Scheifele took the puck around the back of the Blues net and fed Blake Wheeler in the slot. The captain buried the one-timer over the glove of Blues goalie Jordan Binnington.

It's a play St. Louis often uses and beat the Jets with in Game 1. Following that game, Jets coach Paul Maurice said he wanted his squad to work on stopping that. He didn't say anything at the time about wanting to copy it.

After being outshot 8-4, the Jets closed out the first period with flurry to even the shot clock at 8-8 and they carried that momentum into the second period.

Fifteen seconds into the second frame, Par Lindholm came close to putting the Jets ahead after being left alone in front for a rebound.

Like he did in Game 1, Lindholm tried to rip a backhand over Binnington but was blocked once again by the goalie's leg.

Not long afterwards, Jets sniper Patrik Laine found the net for the second straight game, his booming one-timer coming from a Wheeler feed on a power play.

Shifting momentum

The Jets were outshooting the Blues 5-0 over the first six minutes of that period but made the mistake of easing up.

By the time the shots evened up at 13 apiece, St. Louis had twice put the puck past Hellebuyck — including Sundqvist with his second of the game — and regained both the lead and momentum.

But the first shot the Jets took to end that run — their first in more than 14½ minutes of play — also ended the Blues' lead.

Scheifele took a pass from Kyle Connor and beat Binnington high on the blocker side for the Jets' second straight power play marker and suddenly things were knotted at 3-3.

But the Blues' O'Reilly, who seemed to be everywhere on the ice Friday, scored the only goal in the third, sinking the Jets into a deeper hole as they head to enemy territory.

"We are not done," Jets fan Derrick Malis insisted. "Hellebuyck didn't have his best game but I still have confidence in him and I still have confidence in the team.

"I'm not worried about it," he said, then quietly added as he walked away, "I am worried, I am actually worried."

The series now shifts to the Enterprise Center in St. Louis for Game 3 on Sunday and Game 4 on Tuesday.

Notebook:

  • This is the third time in franchise history the Jets have trailed 2-0 in a series, and first time since losing Game 2 to Anaheim Apr. 18, 2015.
  • Jets went 2-for-3 on the power play.
  • Jets penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4.
  • Last season in the playoffs, the Jets went 5-3 on home ice, including winning their first four home games. This year they are 0-2.
  • Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is the only player on the Jets roster to score an overtime goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs and that happened nearly a decade ago. He did it while playing for the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference final against the San Jose Sharks.
  • The Jets franchise has never won a playoff game in overtime, going 0-2 so far.

About the Author

Darren Bernhardt

Reporter/Editor

Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories and features. Story idea? Email: darren.bernhardt@cbc.ca

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