WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets said they are confident they can come back against the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Second Round after a 1-0 loss in Game 2 at Bell MTS Place on Friday put them in an 0-2 hole in the best-of-7 series.
The Jets said they believe their game took a huge step forward, playing a more defensively sound, disciplined style from the outset.
“Big improvement for us on Game 1,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Neither team scores an even-strength goal. Hard-to-come-by opportunities at either end of the ice. But much, much better than our Game 1.”
Tyler Toffoli scored the only goal of Game 2, shorthanded at 1:41 of the second period.
The Jets could not find the goal to tie the game, though they pressed hard in the third period when they outshot the Canadiens 14-7. Their ability to grind and to be aggressive in Game 2 gives them optimism they can do more of it, and better.
Game 3 is Sunday at Montreal (6 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS, SN) and Game 4 follows on Monday.
“I think we can take a lot of positives out of this game,” forward Andrew Copp said. “We’re doing a lot of the right things in the offensive zone, defensively we were quicker. We’re just kind of keeping on keeping on.
“They just went through a seven-game series and we’ve got a back-to-back coming up. Those top four ‘D’ of theirs are logging an awful lot of minutes, they’re big boys, they’re physical, so we’re just trying to wear them down over the course of a seven-game series. Obviously, tonight we didn’t get the result we wanted but we thought tonight was a good template for us moving forward.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the core of the Jets will find confidence in having been down 2-0 two seasons ago against the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Western Conference First Round to tie the series before losing in six games to the Blues, who went on to the win the Stanley Cup.
They lost the first two at home in that series, 2-1 and 4-3, but rallied to tie it with wins of 6-3 and 2-1 in overtime in St. Louis.
“You learn every single year and there’s still a lot of guys that are here that played that series against St. Louis,” forward Nikolaj Ehlers said. “Everyone in here knows what it takes and, like I said before, I think we played a really good game and worked our [butts] off. So we’ve just got to keep going.”
Maurice said he’s got those circumstances in mind. And even if it will be without center Mark Scheifele, who will serve the second game of his four-game suspension in Game 3, defenseman Dylan DeMelo, who’s out at least a week with an undisclosed injury, and forward Paul Stastny, who missed Games 1 and 2 with an undisclosed injury, he will be pushing his team for another step up in the quality of their game Sunday.
“We feel we’ve got to make the same kind of improvement in Game 3, and that’s the big one,” Maurice said. “Obviously, a critical game for numbers, but also going into back-to-back. If we can make the same kind of improvement game over game, we’ve got a real good chance.
“It’s a challenge, for sure. We’ve been a better road team than we’ve been a home team all year (17-10-1 and 2-0 in the playoffs on the road vs. 13-13-2 and 2-2 in the playoffs at home). We’ve got some confidence going into the other team’s building and there’s a chance we might get Paul [Stastny] back, which will probably help our group up front.”