April 25, 2018

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Record: 52 – 20 – 10

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Winnipeg Jets (52 – 20 – 10)

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One down, 15 to go... nothing to celebrate; it's business as usual for Jets

Jets would love to leave city leading 2-0

It was the day after the biggest win in franchise history, one that set this city abuzz and reinforced widespread belief that this Winnipeg Jets team is very much the real deal.

But while city officials were scrambling to make room for more celebrations outside the rink, it was an all-business mindset inside Bell MTS Place on Thursday. Nobody was getting ahead of themselves, proclaiming Wednesday night’s 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild anything more than a hard-fought victory in the series opener.

Three more victories will be needed to move to the next round. Fifteen more are required to capture the ultimate prize. It’s only going to get more difficult, beginning with Game 2 tonight on home ice (6:30 p.m., Sportsnet, TSN 1290), where the Wild will be looking to square the series and wrestle away home-ice advantage before it shifts to St. Paul for games Sunday and Tuesday.

“I think you talk to some of the older guys and momentum doesn’t carry over from game to game in the playoffs. As soon as Game 2 starts, it’s a whole new game, a whole new battle. You have to have sort of a short-term memory, whether you win or you lose in the playoffs and each night, like I said, is a brand-new game. You just have to be ready to go every night,” defenceman Josh Morrissey said following his team’s optional practice Thursday.

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It was the day after the biggest win in franchise history, one that set this city abuzz and reinforced widespread belief that this Winnipeg Jets team is very much the real deal.

But while city officials were scrambling to make room for more celebrations outside the rink, it was an all-business mindset inside Bell MTS Place on Thursday. Nobody was getting ahead of themselves, proclaiming Wednesday night’s 3-2 win over the Minnesota Wild anything more than a hard-fought victory in the series opener.

Three more victories will be needed to move to the next round. Fifteen more are required to capture the ultimate prize. It’s only going to get more difficult, beginning with Game 2 tonight on home ice (6:30 p.m., Sportsnet, TSN 1290), where the Wild will be looking to square the series and wrestle away home-ice advantage before it shifts to St. Paul for games Sunday and Tuesday.

"I think you talk to some of the older guys and momentum doesn’t carry over from game to game in the playoffs. As soon as Game 2 starts, it’s a whole new game, a whole new battle. You have to have sort of a short-term memory, whether you win or you lose in the playoffs and each night, like I said, is a brand-new game. You just have to be ready to go every night," defenceman Josh Morrissey said following his team’s optional practice Thursday.

Only about a dozen Jets were on the ice, and Mathieu Perreault was not among them. The veteran winger was crushed with a big hit from Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu Wednesday and appeared to injure his shoulder. He stayed in the game briefly but was officially ruled out after the second period.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice wouldn’t offer much, saying Perreault will be a "game-time" decision. The same goes for blue-liner Toby Enstrom, who missed several games down the stretch and the playoff opener with a lingering lower-body injury.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Jets forward Jack Roslovic skates during practice at the Bell MTS Place.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Jets forward Jack Roslovic skates during practice at the Bell MTS Place.

If Perreault can’t go, rookie Jack Roslovic would seem the most likely option to slide in on the line with Bryan Little and Joel Armia. Marko Dano and Shawn Matthias are the other healthy forward options.

"(Roslovic) is a young guy, really fast. We want him to use his speed and kinda fill in for Matty. He can play that game. He’s got a lot of energy and a feel to make plays in their end, so not too much of a transition there," Little said Thursday.

"We’re used to shuffling the deck a bit. Guys have stepped up when we needed them to… It’s nice to have a talented group where you can get a guy into the lineup and he’s a player right away."

Centre Adam Lowry, who played a big part in Wednesday’s win with his physical play and several big defensive-zone faceoff wins in the final minute, said the focus for his group is on the task at hand — and not what they’ve already accomplished.

"It’s important that we use these days to rest and try and tweak some things. There’s certainly some things we want to clean up and there was a lot of things we thought we did well, so you take a look at those and try and build on them for Game 2," Lowry said.

However, Maurice and company said there are important lessons they can take from the first win over Minnesota. They took a 1-0 lead into the third, only to watch it disappear when Minnesota scored twice in just over a two-minute span before the period was four minutes old.

But the Jets, as they have done most of the season, didn’t wilt. They fired off 14 straight shots, including the tying goal off the stick of Patrik Laine and the winner from unlikely scoring hero Joe Morrow to rally for the first playoff victory in the history of the franchise that began in Atlanta in 1999. It’s also the first win for a Winnipeg-based NHL team since April 1996.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Forward Shawn Matthias skates at the Jets practice at the Bell MTS Place.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Forward Shawn Matthias skates at the Jets practice at the Bell MTS Place.

That kind of resiliency, especially from such a young and inexperienced team when it comes to playoffs, was a positive sign.

"The way we faced that adversity after the first two games of the season (one-sided losses to Toronto and Calgary), I feel like we know we can handle anything. We just keep our confidence and keep to our game. I feel like our persistence in our game is a lot better than last year," said forward Andrew Copp. "When we got down 2-1 (Wednesday), our confidence didn’t run away too much. We just kind of stuck to our game."

Several players pointed to captain Blake Wheeler and defenceman Dustin Byfuglien for helping keep emotions in check.

"You look at what Blake does every night, he drives the ship for us," Lowry said. "Byfuglien, the back end. Guys like that. You don’t let the game get away from you. You get scored on, you go down 2-1, those guys go out there every shift and you just start to get some of that momentum back. I think it’s sometimes you don’t know any better and don’t have that experience, you don’t have that fear of what could go wrong. You’re kind of just going out there to play and sometimes that’s a benefit for our team, as well."

Indeed, the Jets had several players making their playoff debuts. One of them was Nikolaj Ehlers, who admitted there were plenty of butterflies playing on such a big stage with so much at stake.

"The first 10 minutes were crazy... and both teams kind of had to figure each other out. After that, the nerves were gone," he said. "I tried to play the same game I played for 82 games this year. It’s hard, but we’ve done it for 82 games this year and we’ve just got to continue doing it."

Defenceman Jacob Trouba said it ultimately comes down to confidence, something the team has a good supply of right now.

"In past years we would go about it a certain way, and we figured out that didn’t work. We talked about doing it this way, where you don’t really change how you play. But it’s easier said than done. When it’s a close game you want to make a play. But we’ve built the trust and belief where if we stay a certain way... a lot of times we’re going to win. We’re confident our game’s going to win most nights," said Trouba.

"When you try it your way enough times and it doesn’t work, you might want to try something different. We found that out. You can call it being young or inexperienced or whatever you want, but it’s an important lesson to learn."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Read more by Mike McIntyre.

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History

Updated on Friday, April 13, 2018 at 6:14 AM CDT: Final

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