Jets need a miracle in Missouri
Lose 4-3 to Blues in second-straight home loss to go down in series 2-0
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/04/2019 (1393 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Connor Hellebuyck picked a terrible time to spring a leak. And now a Winnipeg Jets team that has been taking on water for weeks is on the verge of completely going under.
Hellebuyck was beaten four times Friday — an argument could be made that all four had a certain aroma to them — as the Jets fell 4-3 to the St. Louis Blues at Bell MTS Place. They now head to Missouri down 2-0 in the best-of-seven playoff series, their once-promising season very much hanging in the balance.
Ryan O’Reilly broke a tie early in the third period with perhaps the softest one of the night, right through Hellebuyck to the low blocker side to give the Blues the lead for good.
“I’d rather watch video before I discuss it. That’s all I’m gonna say,” a rather defiant Hellebuyck said following a question about whether he’d want the game-winner back.
“I would like every single goal I ever let in back. That’s kind of a loaded question. I’m going to prepare the same way and make sure my game’s right, and we’re gonna take it to ’em,” he said.
“I just need to continue battling. Keep fighting and show everyone that I’m going to be the rock behind them.”
Shaky goaltending was certainly a major storyline, but not the only one. A number of other recent maladies also factored into the latest result. Undisciplined penalties. Breakdowns in their own end. And an inability to hold on to a lead once again.
Stop us if you’ve heard this before.
No, the Jets haven’t looked right for a while. And this latest effort is a microcosm of many of the team’s problems. Flashes of greatness mixed in with far too many self-inflicted wounds.
“We have a lot of belief in the team we have in here. It’s a tough hole to come out of, but some pretty good teams have come out of it,” forward Adam Lowry insisted following the game.
“I don’t think we’re frustrated. I think for the most part we’ve played two pretty solid games. It comes down to a couple breaks… I feel like we’re right there.”
Winnipeg had all the momentum out of the gate. A fired-up, likely well-lubricated crowd that had plenty of time to prepare for the 8:30 p.m. puck drop. Hoosli in the house with powerful renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada. An early power play.
Maybe, just maybe, this would be their night. The rookie sensation, Jordan Binnington, was surely going to crumble under the pressure, right?
And then, Mark Scheifele lost his mind. First, he negated the man-advantage by taking out Alex Steen for some reason, who was nowhere near the puck. That’s textbook interference.
The Blues were no doubt happy for the gracious gift, opening the scoring on the ensuing four-on-four. Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey got caught on a bad pinch and Oskar Sundqvist beat Hellebuyck to the blocker side. It was a nice shot, sure. But it’s one Hellebuyck needs to stop. Which would become a theme throughout the night.
Apparently not content with one ill-timed infraction, Scheifele doubled-down a few minutes later by running O’Reilly from behind. It was senseless, as he caught the St. Louis centre right on the numbers.
Then Andrew Copp got in on the act, drilling O’Reilly from the back with Scheifele still in the box. That put the Jets down two men for 17 seconds. Alex Pietrangelo rang one off the crossbar as the Jets were on the verge of coming completely unglued.
“I don’t have a problem with (the penalties). You have to get the temperature of the game. So if you’re at Game 1, I’m not sure there’s a call there. The hits that were going were far more physical than those. You’ve got to adjust and we did. We figured out that there wouldn’t be the same level of bumping allowed and then cut it back. But it was different… it’s not a complaint. I want to be clear about that, I’m not complaining about it,” coach Paul Maurice said of the undisciplined play.
“It was just different tonight than it was in the first game so you come kind of out ready and wired for that kind of game, it’s going to be real physical and then you get the message real early that it’s not going to be allowed and be quite as physical and it wasn’t.”
One thing about sports is the opportunity for redemption, and Copp and Scheifele got theirs later in the period, setting up Wheeler for the tying goal. Copp got the puck after coming out of the penalty box and fed Scheifele, who made a perfect feed from behind the Blues net.
Winnipeg’s power play went to work early in the second after Blues defenceman Robert Bortuzzo delivered a late, high hit on Nikolaj Ehlers, which temporarily knocked the Jets winger from the game.
Patrik Laine wasted no time giving the home team the lead, blasting home a Wheeler feed from his familiar spot just 19 seconds into the man-advantage. It was the second goal in as many games for Laine, who had just one goal in his final 19 regular-season games.
A lead for the Jets, just like the one they carried into the third period of Game 1. But just as it did Wednesday night, it all began to unravel.
Patrick Maroon, who set up the Game 1 winner by Tyler Bozak, jammed home a juicy rebound off Hellebuyck just under four minutes after Laine’s goal. The Jets were guilty of some soft coverage in their own end, and Hellebuyck didn’t do a very good job of tracking the puck.
Then Sundqvist made it 3-2 near the midway mark of the period as he was inexplicably given way too much time and space, splitting the defence and firing a shot right through Hellebuyck’s five-hole. Once again, it’s a puck the former Vezina Trophy finalist has to stop.
Scheifele took another step toward atonement for his earlier sins when he scored with just over a minute left in the middle frame, once again with his team enjoying a man-advantage.
It’s notable that Dustin Byfuglien factored into both power play goals in the second period. The veteran defenceman was finally moved back to the top unit at the start of the game after spending the six games since he returned from injury stuck on the No. 2 unit.
It was a clear sore spot with Byfuglien, who slammed his stick in disgust during a regular-season game last week in Minnesota when Jacob Trouba stayed out for the two-minute advantage.
After watching Byfuglien go to work Friday and put up a pair of assists, you have to wonder what took Maurice so long.
However, the tie would be short-lived.
O’Reilly delivered the dagger just 3:46 into the third period, beating Hellebuyck right through the wickets once again. The Jets were unable to get another puck past Binnington, who finished with 26 saves.
Hellebuyck stopped 28 shots.
“They haven’t won. We’ve got a lot of heart in here, and we’re gonna fight. Every inch, every battle,” said Hellebuyck.
“This is a team game. Like I said, we’re gonna fight. Nothing’s over. Two-oh is not the end of the world.”
Brandon Tanev returned to the lineup after missing three games with a hand injury, but Mathieu Perreault was unavailable after suffering an upper-body injury during the morning skate.
Winnipeg has now lost five straight games in regulation on home ice, dating back to the end of the regular-season. They’ve also dropped four straight playoff games at Bell MTS Place dating back to last year’s Western Conference final against Vegas.
The Jets now face the daunting task of having to win four out of the next five games. They’ll get their first crack on Sunday night at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
“You’ve got to win four games to win a series. Never met any team that won two to win a series, so we’re all right,” said Wheeler.
“At this time of year you gotta get results. So, go to St. Louis and take care of business.”
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Friday, April 12, 2019 11:52 PM CDT: Adds photos
Updated on Friday, April 12, 2019 11:53 PM CDT: Updates photo captions.
Updated on Saturday, April 13, 2019 12:29 AM CDT: Updates with post-game quotes.