Winnipeg Jets outlast Avalanche 7-6 to win chaotic Game 1

If Game 1 is any indication, this first round Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche is going to be a doozy.

In front of a rabid Whiteout crowd, the Jets escaped a wild series opener with a 7-6 win Sunday evening for their first playoff win in two years and first on home ice in front of fans since Game 1 of the 2018 West Final.

The building was rocking ahead of puck drop but the Avalanche immediately took the crowd out, outshooting the Jets 9-1 in the first four minutes.

Colorado rode that momentum to the game’s opening goal 6:10 into the first. As the Jets tried to change, Josh Manson sent the puck up to Valeri Nichushkin, who skated into the Winnipeg end down the right wing and ripped a perfect shot high over Connor Hellebuyck’s blocker.

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It didn’t take long for the home team to answer.  Just 1:52 after the opener, a wrister off the stick of Josh Morrissey floated through a crowd and past Alexandar Georgiev to tie the game.

Less than four minutes later, the home team had the lead for the first time. As Josh Manson tried to move the puck up the boards from his own corner, Alex Iafallo got a stick on it, sending it careening to the slot where Vladislav Namestnikov was ready to wire it home to make it 2-1.

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Winnipeg’s lead lasted 2:50 before Colorado got even. Dylan Samberg coughed up the puck as he carried it from behind his own net. Joel Kiviranta carried the puck in front and as he tried to make a move, it jumped to the stick of Miles Wood who potted it to make it 2-2.

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Just 18 seconds later, Nathan MacKinnon put the Avalanche back in front. After Winnipeg failed to clear the puck, Cale Makar passed it to Mikko Rantanen, who slid it to MacKinnon for a knuckler that fooled Hellebuyck and beat him five-hole.

The lead lasted all of 48 seconds. The Jets’ top line went to work in the Colorado end, leading to Gabriel Vilardi finding Mark Scheifele in front for a tap-in to tie the game 3-3.

Colorado wound up outshooting the Jets 14-8 in the chaotic first period, and at one point had a 10-2 edge in the second period but couldn’t break the tie on the scoreboard.

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The score stayed tied 3-3 until the 8:57 mark of the second when Adam Lowry was sprung on a 2-on-1 with Mason Appleton. The Jets’ captain kept it and fired it five-hole on Georgiev to restore Winnipeg’s lead.

Winnipeg pushed for an insurance goal thanks in part to the game’s first power play but their lead stayed at one after 40 minutes, with Colorado outshooting Winnipeg 11-9 in the middle frame.

If history were to be any indictor, the Jets were in great position to secure the W as they went 37-1-1 in the regular season when leading after two periods and 35-0 when scoring four or more goals.

True to form, Winnipeg began to pull away early in the third. Lowry scored his second of the night 3:31 into the period, a huge insurance goal that was initially waved off. His shot hit both posts and skimmed along the goal line before being cleared down the ice, but video replay showed that, for one brief moment, the puck fully crossed the line to give the Jets a 5-3 lead.

2:20 later, with Winnipeg on a power play, Morrissey fed Kyle Connor for a one-timer that beat Georgiev to make it 6-3.

Colorado earned their first power play just ten seconds later and made good on the chance when Artturi Lehkonen tipped a Makar point shot past Hellebuyck to make it 6-4.

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Connor’s second of the night at the 8:54 mark restored Winnipeg’s three-goal lead, his shot from in close glancing off the foot of Manson and over the glove of Georgiev.

The team’s continued to trade goals when Colorado answered back on their second power play of the game. A wrist shot from the point off the stick of Makar beat Hellebuyck through a screen to make it 7-5 with 7:36 to go.

Colorado pulled Georgiev for an extra attacker with 3:21 remaining and pushed hard to cut the deficit, which they finally did with 27.1 seconds left a bouncing puck in the crease found its way past Hellebuyck.

That’s as close as the Avs would get as the Jets narrowly got to the finish line.

Hellebuyck made 39 saves in the win while Georgiev turned aside 16 shots in defeat.

Game 2 goes Tuesday night in Winnipeg with the puck dropping just after 8:30 p.m. Pregame coverage on 680 CJOB starts at 6:30.