The Winnipeg Jets surprising season came to abrupt end after being swept out of the NHL playoffs in the first round by the Anaheim Ducks. It was the first playoff appearance by the franchise since moving from Atlanta and the fans of Winnipeg made sure that it would be a memorable. Despite being the first team to exit the postseason, the Jets made the Ducks work hard for most of their wins and gained valuable playoff experience.
The series opened up in Anaheim, home of the best Western Conference team. Sami Vatanen opened the scoring early in the game for the Ducks but the Jets countered back with a goal from Adam Lowry showing that the team was not just happy to make the playoffs but was there to compete. Drew Stafford gave the Jets a 2-1 lead in the second period off a 3-on-2 rush. Stafford stopped at the circle and fired it past Frederik Andersen. In the third period, the Ducks rallied from behind thanks to Corey Perry’s two goals. The Ducks capitalized on their powerplay going 2 for 3 in the game to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
In a recurring theme, the Jets took another lead into the third period. Ondrej Pavelec had shutout the Ducks in the first two periods stopping 22 shots. Adam Pardy opened the scoring on a wraparound for the Jets at 15:43 of the second period. The Ducks finally beat Pavelec midway through the third on a powerplay. With Ducks forward Patrick Maroon parked in front of Pavelec, Cam Fowler blasted a shot which deflected off Maroon and past Pavelec. With only 21 seconds left in regulation, the Ducks sustained pressure in the Jets zone. Jakob Silfverberg took the puck from behind the net and scored the game winner to give the Ducks a 2-0 series lead. Pavelec stopped 37 of 39 shots in a heartbreaking 2-1 loss.
With a ‘whiteout’ in full effect, the Jets came back home to raucous MTS Centre. The atmosphere that the Jets provided was reminiscent of the Winnipeg Jets of the 80s and 90s playoff runs where everyone was decked in white attire and crowd noise rivaling some of the loudest sports stadiums. After exchanging goals in first period of Game 3, both teams exploded in the second. Tyler Myers, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little provided the offense for the Jets and Corey Perry and Jakob Silfverberg replied for the Ducks in a five goal frame. With the Jets leading 4-3 going into the third period, the Ducks scored late to tie the game. Ryan Kesler scored his first of the series to even the game up at 4-4. Rickard Rakell completed the rally 5:12 into overtime silencing the MTS Centre and giving the Ducks a commanding 3-0 series lead.
With the Jets fighting for their playoff lives, Bryan Little gave the Jets a 1-0 lead in Game 4 of the series. Anaheim responded with three unanswered goals. Jets Mark Stuart gave life to the crowd pulling them within one goal that led to a three minute ‘Go Jets Go’ chant. Ryan Kesler ended any hopes of a comeback with his second goal of the game with less than five minutes to play and the Ducks added an empty netter for a 5-2 win.
Captain Andrew Ladd talked about the experience factor in the playoff series.
“They’re a team that when through the ups and downs last season and probably learned from that,” he said of the Ducks. “So I think we take the experience we got this time, learn from it and next time we’re in this situation, we’ll handle it better.”
After the game, the Jets fans stood in admiration of their team’s hard fought effort and the Jets acknowledged their passionate fans one last time. The Jets will only get better with great prospects and the re-emergence of Ondrej Pavelec in net with The Hockey News even predicting a possible Cup run in 2019. It was a great and head turning season for the Winnipeg Jets and the league has definitely taken notice of the new playoff threat. Keep your heads up, Jets fans. The best is yet to come.
Photos by Ron Cantiveros | Filipino Journal