The Winnipeg Jets made history last night scoring 31 seconds into the first period to the jubilation of Jets fans rink side and the 20,000 strong outside cheering the Jets in what saw Winnipeg taking a landslide victory against Minnesota and advancing to the next round of playoffs.
Last night took 31 years and was a first round series win for the club since 1987 in what saw the Jets winning four games to the one the Wild won in Game 3. Over 15,000 packed the arena to cheer on their team and watch history in the making, and did so traditionally with all decked out in white.
The Jets scored four goals in the first period and virtually decimated Minnesota’s hopes of coming back and being relevant in the series. Ironically, that is the same number of goals scored in the 87 series clincher.
Dustin Byfuglien, Captain for the Jets, said,
“I guess if there’s a way to start a game, that’s the way, we never let up.”
Last night’s game also saw Winnipeg setting a record for the franchise for the most goals scored in a first period playoff game. This came in a game that saw multiple firsts for the Jets including their first series win in the playoffs.
The minute the Winnipeg Jets stepped on the ice they took control over Minnesota. It was one head coach Bruce Boudreau did not expect. That control included the Jets dominating the puck from beginning of the series straight through to the end, in what was a series that had pegged Winnipeg as the underdogs.
“I thought we were pretty ready. The way we were talking, we were ready to go. I thought we were rattled. I mean, we couldn’t handle the puck very well. Looked like we were nervous out there and they obviously took advantage of that.”
The crowd was passionate in their support chanting “We Want Nashville” as the third period got underway, and setting up what could possibly be an intense second round series in the playoffs as the Jets head south to face the Nashville Predators.
The regular season has Nashville beating Winnipeg in three of their five games. Yet, it is the time to take stock for the Jets at how far they have come when you consider it was only four years ago that the the team left Atlanta and its top four players, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstom all chose to follow.
Commenting on the journey, Bryan Little said,
“It’s been a long journey, a lot of ups and downs, not many playoff games. A lot of long summers watching this hockey, so it definitely feels nice to be moving on and doing well in the playoffs. Once you get that action, that taste, you want to keep going.”
Those same four players tolerated more than and any others than just losing having played once in the postseason since 2015 and that ended with the Anaheim Ducks winning and the Jets calling it a season.
For Little, the handshakes were one for reflection for the former OHL player.
“I didn’t know what to say. That was the first thing that went through my mind. Last time I won a playoff series was in the minor leagues my first year in 2007.”
Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstom all could have moved on for bigger paydays had they not been dedicated to the cause, and one who appreciates that is Paul Maurice, the Jets head coach.
Commenting on the last few years, Maurice said,
“It’s been a grind, especially the last two years because of all of this youth movement. It’s the veteran guys who, in a lot of ways, pay for it. The kids are on the ice, they make a mistake and go back out. But the veteran guys have the cameras in their face the last two years.
Game 5 saw all four lines scoring during the first period, and considering the Jets were without three of their defencemen, the win meant even more. The Jets will now face off against the Predators in the next round, and considering the charge they are on, the momentum is in their favour.