On a wild, loud, celebratory Friday night in downtown Winnipeg, the Jets got a goal from Jacob Trouba at the 31-second mark of the first period and proceeded to blast the Minnesota Wild 5-0 to win the best-of-seven Central Division semifinal four-games-to-one.
“We have the cameras in the coaches room,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “We see the crowd, we see the crowd out in the street. These are great fans. They just appreciate the game. It was great for us.”
Playing in front of another white-clad sellout crowd of more than 16,000 and with more than 18,000 fans on the streets outside Bell MTS Place, the Jets scored four times in the first period and coasted to the first playoff series win by the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise. It was also the first series win by any team named Winnipeg Jets since 1987 — 31 years.
The Jets have advanced to the second round and an expected meeting with the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators.
“We played well,” said Maurice. “All of these games were closer than the scores would indicate. Other than Game 3, we were pretty good.”
The Winnipeg Jets say thanks to the 16,000 white-clad believers inside Bell MTS Place.
With the crowd in a festive mood, the Jets got off to a quick start and never really relented.
Trouba scored a low shot past Wild net minder Devan Dubnyk at 31 seconds from Mark Scheifele and Dustinm Byfuglien and then Bryan Little tallied his first of the playoffs from Byfuglien and Paul Stastny at 5:42. Brandon Tanev notched his first of the playoffs at 11:10 after stealing a puck in the Wild zone and then Joel Armia scored his first of the playoffs just 49 seconds later from Byfuglien and Andrew Copp and that drove the Jets fans into a frenzy.
It also encouraged Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau to pull Dubnyk and replace him with backup Alex Stalock.
After a scoreless second period, Mark Scheifele put an end to any doubts with a wicked shot past Stalock on the power play at the 32 second mark, from Stastny and Blake Wheeler and that was all the Jets needed.
Actually, the Jets only needed one. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves to record his second straight shutout and the second shutout of his career in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“It couldn’t have gone any worse at the start for us,” said Wild scoring leader and veteran, Eric Staal. “You get behind the eight-ball here and it’s tough. It was a tough night for all of us.”
The post-series handshake. One of hockey’s greatest traditions.
The Wild outshot the Jets 30-26. However, the Jets outshot Minnesota 13-9 in the first period and outscored them 4-0 and that’s all anyone needs to know. The Wild were zero-for-three on the power play while the Jets were one-for-two. The Wild suffered back-to-back playoff shutout losses for the first time since 2003.
It was a big night for Byfuglien who logged 25 minutes and 34 seconds of ice time, had two assists, was plus two, had three shots, four hits and three blocked shots. Byfuglien was the back bone of a defensemen that was without Josh Morrissey. Morrissey served a one-game suspension for a cross-check on Staal in Game 4 of the series.
The Jets will now wait for the second round, a series that is expected to begin in Nashville in at least a week.
By Scott Taylor
Photos by Jeff Miller and James Carey Lauder