After solving the Blues’ young, star tendy once in the first period, Winnipeg was unable to find the twine for the remainder of game one, falling 2-1 to the Blues on home ice Wednesday evening. Although the fan support and energy level was at an all-time high, the Jets were unable to get the job done, collapsing once again in the game’s second half – an all-too-familiar tale from the 2018-19 season.
Winnipeg played a near perfect opening frame, relying on quick zone transitions, high percentage scoring chances and heavy hits to excite the crowd, bringing deafening cheers upon all those gathered at Bell MTS Place Wednesday evening.
It took all of 34 seconds for the Winnipeg faithful to start up a ‘ref you suck’ chant, as Jets’ forward Mark Scheifele crashed into St. Louis goaltender Jordan Binnington, sending the 25-year-old rookie netminder spiraling to the ice in an exaggerated dive. Winnipeg’s highest-scoring forward was given a two-minute interference penalty on the play, resulting in a very early Blues man advantage.
The Jets killed off the penalty, and in true Winnipeg fashion, the fans ensured to loudly ‘boo’ Binnington every time the backstop touched the puck for the remainder of the game.
As is typically the case in nearly every first period of every first playoff game, both teams showed some early-game jitters. Heavy body checks by Winnipeg’s Ben Chiarot, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Copp and Tyler Myers gave the fans something to cheer about, until Patrik Laine single-handedly brought all of Winnipeg onto its feet at the 6:32 mark, with the very first goal of the series.
Picking up a Bryan Little cross-ice pass, Laine walked into the middle of the Jets’ offensive zone and ripped a howitzer of a wrist shot past Binnington’s glove, going bar-down for Winnipeg’s first goal of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blues outshot the Jets 8-7 in the first frame, thanks in large part to its early power play. Although putting one less puck on net than their opponents, the Jets finished the first period leading in the one statistical category that matters – the scoreboard.
The second period provided more entertainment in the form of scoring chances and body checks, but the closest that either team could come to finding goals was when Ryan O’Reilly and Dustin Byfuglien hit opposite goal posts from good distances out. The Jets put up 11 shots in the middle stanza, as compared to St. Louis’ eight, taking an 18-16 lead through 40 minutes.
The Blues found the scoreboard five minutes into the third period, as a long-distance David Perron point shot found its way past Connor Hellebuyck after a weird bounce off the foot of Andrew Copp. St. Louis continued its strong play in the final frame, out-battling the Jets to loose pucks, while maintaining better overall zone control than their Central Division opponent.
Following a defensive zone scramble, the Jets coughed up the puck to the Blues with just over a minute to play, leading to a Tyler Bozak go-ahead marker. With the puck on his stick in the low slot, the first-year St. Louis forward beat Hellebuyck clean far side, sealing Winnipeg’s fate. The Jets came close to scoring in the game’s final minute, but Binnington shut the door on every chance, including a Mark Scheifele one-timer with 12 seconds to go.
The goaltenders combined to stop 48 of 51 total shots, with Binnington getting the upper hand, walking away with just one goal against and 24 saves. Although looking rather solid for 45 minutes of hockey, Connor Hellebuyck allowed two goals in the game’s final 15 minutes, giving him five-straight playoff losses, dating back to the 2018 Western Conference Final.
After falling behind 1-0 in the opening round best-of-seven series Wednesday evening, the Winnipeg Jets will look to tie the series at one game apiece in a critical second-straight home game. Leaving to St. Louis without a win could very well spell disaster for the Jets, so a sizable performance from Winnipeg Friday night is highly anticipated. Puck drop from Bell MTS Place is scheduled for 8:40 PM central. Friday’s whiteout street party begins at 6:30 PM.