Jets 2.0’s Top 5 Playoff Moments
Today marks two years since the Winnipeg Jets’ 2018 playoff run ended with a Game 5 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final.
That Cup run, and to a lesser extent, the Jets’ other two playoff appearances since relocating from Atlanta, produced many great memories.
Here’s a look back at five of best moments from the Jets 2.0’s 27 all-time playoff matchups.
5: Byfuglien Sets the Tone in Western Conference Final — May 12, 2018
One could have excused Dustin Byfuglien and the Jets for coming out sluggish in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Golden Knights less than 48 hours after conquering the Central Division champion Nashville Predators in a tooth-and-nail, exhausting seven game series (more on that later.)
Instead, they came out flying, running on sheer adrenaline. Just 65 seconds in, the big man Byfuglien, who was simply a beast that playoffs, took a drop pass from Mark Scheifele and blasted the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury to give his team a 1-0 lead. The Jets went onto win the game 4-2, and Cup dreams rose to an all-time high.
“We haven’t had much rest, so we’re still in game mode,” Byfuglien said right after the final horn. “It was just a matter of moving our feet, keeping it simple, and doing the right things.”
“We did take advantage of being game-ready off our last series and we weren’t put in a position — because we had the lead — where I had to shorten the bench,” Paul Maurice agreed.
Related: No Rest is No Problem for Jets
While momentum proved better than rest in Game 1, fatigue did catch up to the Jets. The Golden Knights, who had a week off prior to the series, won the next four games straight as the Jets ran out of fuel.
4: Connor’s OT Winner Knots Series 2-2 — April 16, 2019
After two one-goal losses in the first two games of their first-round series against the surging St. Louis Blues, the Jets captured a 6-3 win in Game 3 in St. Louis.
In Game 4, the Blues had the chance to take a comfortable 3-1 series lead. After allowing a combined nine goals two nights before, Connor Hellebuyck and Jordan Binnington were much tougher to put pucks behind as they turned away all comers through 40 minutes and stopped a combined 43 shots.
Vladimir Tarasenko scored 33 seconds into the third to break the deadlock, and Scheifele responded with a goal at 7:33 to tie the game 1-1. Despite firing 15 third-period shots at the rookie phenom Binnington, the Jets couldn’t find another goal and the game went to overtime.
In the extra frame, Kyle Connor played the hero and ensured the Jets didn’t fall behind by two games. At 6:02, Blake Wheeler burst into the offensive zone with speed and got the puck to Scheifele. Scheifele took a shot, regained his own rebound, and executed a tap pass to Connor, who stuffed the puck home just inches clear of Binnington’s outstretched skate.
3: The Jets 2.0’s First Home Playoff Game — April 20, 2015
It was a day fans had waited nearly 19 years for —18 years, 11 months, and 23 days, to be exact: to see their Jets compete in a postseason contest. It came in the form of Game 3 against the Anaheim Ducks on April 20, 2015.
The excitement in Winnipeg was palpable as fans packed the MTS Centre clad in white, bringing back the Whiteout that had last been seen on April 28, 1996, when the Jets 1.0 lost Game 6 to the Detroit Red Wings and then relocated to Phoenix.
“This is a big thing for this city, for this community to have their team in the playoffs,” forward Jim Slater said at the time. “Not a lot of people know where Winnipeg is on a map, but they definitely know where their hockey team is, and we take a lot of pride in that.”
The late 8 p.m. start did nothing to damper the enthusiasm of the 15,000-plus who were fired up all night long, especially when Lee Stempniak opened the scoring halfway through the first frame.
The game itself was a dandy, an intense, back-and-forth affair that went to overtime deadlocked at four apiece.
Rickard Rakell scored in the extra frame to give the Ducks the victory and a 3-0 series stranglehold, but what the game represented makes it deserving of a spot on the list. It was a moment that showed the Jets finally had their own identity and they were not simply the Thrashers playing in Winnipeg. It also showed that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s patient “draft and develop strategy” was beginning to pay dividends after three-plus seasons of waiting.
2: Jets Explode in First Period Against Wild — April 20, 2018
It was the first potential series-clinching game in Jets 2.0 history. The team had a chance to punch their ticket to the second round with a Game 5 victory over the Minnesota Wild at the MTS Centre.
Upwards of 15,000 people — author included — showed up to the ever-expanding, epic Whiteout Street Party, hoping their team would do something special and that they’d stand witness to the first playoff series victory since 1987.
The decked-out supporters witnessed just that as the Jets roared out of the gate and scored four goals before the game was even 12 minutes old: Jacob Trouba 31 seconds in, Bryan Little at 5:42, Brandon Tanev at 11:10, and Joel Armia at 11:59. As Winnipeg Sun sportswriter Ken Wiebe wrote after the game: “There was only one dangerous team on this night and that was the home team.” (From ‘Jets eliminate Wild: Series ends in five, team tastes first playoff win,’ Winnipeg Sun, 04/20/18.)
From that point, all of downtown Winnipeg was in full-on party mode as the Jets rolled to a 5-0 victory. After the game, some even took to the Portage and Main intersection to whoop it up.
1: Statsny, Jets, Chase Rinne in Game Seven — May 10, 2018
This moment — the one the author promised there’d be much more on — is not only the Jets’ most exciting playoff moment, but also perhaps their pinnacle moment as a franchise thus far. It’s the only time they’ve won a do-or-die game.
Game 7 between the Jets and Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena was the summation of a back-and-forth, intense, and utterly enthralling series between two juggernauts.
Related: Jets Conquer Predators in Game 7
History shows they took the Clash of Titans by a 5-1 score. They silenced the hostile “Smashville” faithful early on when they chased the ultimate Vezina-winning goalie Pekka Rinne from the crease after he allowed two goals on seven shots. It was Paul Stastny’s backhand goal at 10:47 — which came after Tyler Myers opened the scoring — that truly deflated the Predators and their faithful. To see Rinne dejectedly heading to the showers early for the third time in the series was sheer joy from a Jets fan’s perspective.
That goal was one of two for Stastny, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the St. Louis Blues and worked out just about as well as a rental possibly could. Mark Scheifele also scored two, the second of which was his record-setting seventh road goal in the series.
“I obviously feel very much responsible for our season ending at this point,” said Rinne after the game. “Tough. Tough to swallow. Tough to understand. You know, I can’t point on anything. Felt good and no injuries, totally healthy and total ups and downs throughout the playoffs. And obviously, you know, the biggest moment of the season, it’s a terrible feeling. You let your teammates down, and that’s what happened tonight.”Pekka Rinne on getting pulled in Game 7
Do you agree with the author’s list? Which moment did you find the most exciting? Comment below!
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