The Winnipeg Jets returned home fresh of a resurgent effort against the St. Louis Blues on the road. In games 3 and 4, the high-octane, relentless forechecking Jets we’ve been waiting for showed up. With the series now knotted at 2-2, a game at home offered the perfect opportunity to take the series lead. Neither the Blues nor Jets, however, have won much on home ice during the season series. Could Winnipeg upset the trend and continue its ascendance to loftier heights?
The First Period
Things could not have been better for Winnipeg’s early efforts. The TLC line, having had a monstrous performance on the road, was rewarded with the start and immediately paid dividends. The line quickly accelerated into the zone and pulled of a rapid sequence of passes that saw Lowry nab the first tally of the night in less than 30 seconds. St. Louis had issues containing Winnipeg’s offensive pressure but began to generate some quality opportunities off of random bounces and some defensive miscues by the Jets. The best scoring chance came on a nifty feed from Perron that sprung Sundqvist on a breakaway. Sundqvist failed to convert and the score remained 1-0 in Winnipeg’s favor.
The Jets, though largely out-attempted, kept the Blues more towards peripheral shooting areas. The central slot didn’t see as much action as Winnipeg has surrendered in previous efforts, giving Hellebuyck a bit less of a headache. The Blues continued to press, looking for an equalizer, but it was Winnipeg that had the next goal of the game. Kevin Hayes, maligned for a less-than-stellar run for the Jets, carved his way off of a slick neutral zone breakout and powered right to the net. He threw the puck on Binnington, causing the rookie netminder to stumble, and tucked home the rebound. Just like that, Winnipeg had a 2-0 lead and a chance to pull ahead in the series.
The Second Period
After a furious start in the opening 20 minutes, the game notably settled down for the middle frame. The Blues and Jets took turns looking for scoring opportunities, with Winnipeg continuing to absorb sharp-angle chances and some nervy defensive sequences while countering with high-danger opportunities the other way. It was a relatively even period, but the Jets probably had the best opportunity to add another marker on a Hayes shot that trickled through Binnington’s pads. As Hayes was trying to tap it over the line, he ended up getting hauled down and halted the puck’s progress. If he hadn’t interfered, the Jets likely would have put the game away at 3-0.
Winnipeg did get one golden opportunity to grab the goal Hayes prevented, with Kulikov left bleeding on a Robert Thomas high-sticking call. The rare double-minor was awarded and the Jets had a perfect opportunity to put St. Louis away. Unfortunately, slowed puck movement and some less-than-stellar offensive zone pressure saw the two power plays frittered away. The Blues then received a power play to end the period, their first of the night. Fortunately, St. Louis only had a few seconds to set up a scoring chance before the horn sounded. Overall, a very competent, safe period from Winnipeg that’s needed when in control of the scoreline.
The Third Period
If you were nervous about the 2-0 lead not being enough, you were right to be. The Blues power play that carried over from the second period connected on a bit of netfront chaos that started with a failed Chiarot zone clearance. The Blues moved the puck down low and, amidst a mass of bodies, found an opening for O’Reilly to score. Not ideal. Things got even less ideal late in the game when, having failed to score another goal, the Jets instead surrendered one to Schenn. It was reviewed, as Sundqvist had knocked the net off the moorings during the sequence, but determined to have crossed the line before the pegs were removed.
To make matters worse, that familiar turtling thing the Jets do late in games continued to rear its head. We all know Winnipeg is super bad at this, but the Jets keep doing it anyways. In the very last minute of the game, the Jets got pinned deep behind the net. Except, there was no real pressure, and Trouba had the puck with plenty of time to clear it out. Instead, Jake allowed the Blues to swarm him from behind while Morrissey and Scheifele got beaten, and Bozak stripped the puck along the walls. He fed a fortunate, yet perfect, cross-ice pace to Schwartz and the game was over just like that.
I can’t even with this team.