After a game that ended in a flurry of fists, the Winnipeg Jets don’t seem concerned that their first-round playoff series against the Minnesota Wild just might have taken on a more heated tone.
“Everybody got out healthy. It’s fine,” Jets coach Paul Maurice told reporters in a post-game interview.
It took five minutes to play the final 9.7 seconds of the game after interruptions for fights that left helmets and gloves scattered on the ice.
“Ah, I don’t think it’s too much,” said Dustin Byfuglien, echoing the nonchalance of Maurice.
Perhaps the reason for the unruffled responses was that the Jets won 4-1 and now hold a 2-0 lead in the NHL Western Conference best-of-seven playoff series.
Or, perhaps it was that other flurry that preceded the brawling — the one that saw the scoreboard lighting up in favour of the home team.
With Winnipeg up 1-0 and the game nearing the midpoint of the third period, the Jets blew things open. Paul Stastny scored and, before the raucous whiteout crowd could settle back in, Andrew Copp padded the lead to 3-0.
Sniper Patrik Laine got his second goal of the series about eight minutes later and the decibel level inside Bell MTS Place made the seats in the press box quake. The level of 114 db surpassed even that of Game 1, when fans released three years’ worth of pent-up energy waiting for their team to make the post-season again.
Minnesota scored one on the power play with 45 seconds left in the game to spoil Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck’s shutout bid. He conceded it was a bit disappointing but the win was more important “especially at this time of the year.”
Another day at the office
As for the rough stuff, Byfuglien was a one-man wrecking crew, plastering body after body into the boards.
And the rest of the team credited that with getting their engines revved.
“When he decides to lay into somebody, that’s not a whole lot of fun,” said captain Blake Wheeler. “He’s a guy that can really turn the tide out there.”
“He’s just throwing his body all around the ice. It gives us so much energy and the crowd seems to like it,” added Laine.
As for Byfuglien himself?
“It’s just another day at the office,” he told reporters.
Fans chant ‘goodbye’
The Jets were a bit flat to start the game and fell behind 5-0 in shots, but went on a tear to finish the period up 13-9. And by the end of the second, they had a 27-14 spread in shots, but only one Tyler Myers’ goal to show for the effort.
Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made save after save, ignoring the mocking chants of his name from Jets fans.
While the Jets offence found its groove in the third, the defence was nearly bulletproof. The Wild didn’t record a shot on Hellebuyck until 4:52 left in the period.
That prompted a new chant from the fans who put their focus on the Wild’s skaters instead: “Fifteen shots. Fifteen shots. Fifteen shots,” they monotonously called out.
After Laine’s goal, the chants became the song “na na hey hey, goodbye.”
The game ended with the Jets outshooting the Wild 44-17.
Ocean of white
Meanwhile, the fans outside continued their onslaught of Winnipeg’s downtown streets, forcing the popular street party to expand by sheer popularity.
The inaugural whiteout street party, which shut down one block of Donald Street next to the arena during Game 1 on Wednesday, was expected to draw about 5,000. Organizers estimated there were 9,000.
So Friday’s street party for Game 2 was extended by another city block and into the park behind the Millennium Library. The park is an alcohol-free zone with space for lawn chairs.
Two additional big screens were set up along the extended area.
The family zone was much appreciated by Dan Schmidt and his wife, Lindsay, who arrived early to get front-row seats by the big screen with their three kids: Sadie, 4; Jonah, 7; and Sawyer, 8.
“I think it’s awesome. This is perfect,” Schmidt said. “We watched the game on Wednesday [on TV] and we wanted to come out but we knew it would be bonkers and we have three little kids. When we heard this opened up, we were right away, ‘we’re doing this.'”
Despite the temperature being a tad chilly at –2 C when the game started, the Schmidts didn’t mind.
“We put on some layers and put our white shirts on over top,” he said. “And we know the deeper the Jets go [in the playoffs], the warmer it’s going to get.”
Among the party-goers on Friday were some impersonated guests of nobility. Queen Elizabeth was there with her honour guard and so was the King, as in Elvis.
The latter role was filled by Kevin Chabes in a full white Elvis jumpsuit and sideburns.
“It’s time for celebration. We’re here for fun,” he said, adding he hasn’t seen any other Elvises. “I always like to be a little different and have some fun. That’s what it’s about.”
The royal theme was also carried by at least one knight and a princess. Other costumes included Star Wars storm troopers, a giant rabbit, a cow, ballerinas, jumpsuits, white wigs aplenty and hundreds of painted faces.
The series shifts to Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota for Game 3 on Sunday and Game 4 on Tuesday. If necessary, Game 5 is scheduled for Apr. 20 at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg.
- Wednesday night’s victory was the first playoff win in the current Jets franchise history.
- The last time a Winnipeg NHL franchise won the first game of a playoff series was April 18, 1992, when the original Jets beat Vancouver 3-2.
- Jets defenceman Joe Morrow scored his first Stanley Cup playoff goal in the third period of Wednesday’s Game 1. It was also the game-winning goal — the first game-winning goal of his NHL career. Morrow was acquired by the Jets at the trade deadline from Montreal in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in the upcoming 2018 NHL Draft.
- Jets forward Mathieu Perreault left in the second period of Game 1 with an upper-body injury. He didn’t play Friday.
- Rookie Jack Roslovic filled in for Perrault and notched two assists.
- Jets sniper Patrik Laine became the youngest Finland-born player (19 years, 357 days) in NHL history to score a goal in the playoffs, surpassing the Buffalo Sabres’ Hannu Virta (20 years, 31 days) who notched his goal in 1983.
- Laine’s birthday is April 19. There is no playoff game scheduled that day for the series. Game 5, if necessary, goes April 20 in Winnipeg.