Winnipeg entered Sunday evening’s Game 3 with the hope of cutting Montreal’s series lead in half. The team skipped and stuttered its way to a 5-1 loss, ultimately increasing the Canadiens’ stranglehold on a 3-0 series lead.
Despite giving up two goals and one assist to former Jets forward Joel Armia, while failing to pick up more than one goal for the second-straight game, Winnipeg’s attention remained on what it needs to do going forward.
“You’ve got to keep believing,” captain Blake Wheeler said post-game. “You know, 5-1 didn’t feel like 5-1, you know what I mean? I feel like they forgot to count some shots on our side, too, and obviously their goalie is playing at a high level. But I think we like the way we started our game tonight. You can’t reinvent the wheel tonight. You can’t start over and try to do something completely different. I think there’s some things in our game that we really like, some things we can clean up certainly, and hopefully we get a bounce to go our way.”
Working in the Jets’ favour is the fact that the all-important Game 4 will get underway less than 24 hours after they skated off the ice on Sunday.
“I think it’s great for us right now, to be honest with you,” Wheeler said of the back-to-back scenario. “Having to sit in a hotel room all day tomorrow and stew on that one, you would have a lot of guys burning inside. So it’s nice to get right back at it tomorrow. Hopefully we get a good feeling in our room and start to rebuild ourselves. We’ve got to win a hockey game. No different than it was today. We’ve got to win one game and then we’ll see what happens.”
Trailing 3-0 late in the second period, Adam Lowry gave Winnipeg some life with his second goal of the series. After seeing teammates Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers find iron on significant scoring chances, Lowry’s goal served as a relief that his team could, in fact, beat the all-star netminder.
“It’s nice to get one behind him,” Lowry said. “Earlier in the year I think everybody was ready to run Carey out of town and he couldn’t find his game. Now he’s back to the form that they all expect. It’s our best interest to chip away at that confidence and you just continue to get bodies to the net. He’s as world-class goalie for a reason. He’s always voted the goalie you’d like to have in the net in NHL player polls for a winner-take-all kind of game. He’s that goalie for a reason but it really is important that we get bodies in front of him or we get traffic and we convert on some of those chances that we had tonight. Just take it like that. He’s human, he’s gonna let in some goals. We just have to create as many chances as we can to get some by him.”
Hitting the post three times was a significant part of the difference on Sunday for Winnipeg. Another issue was shot selection, traffic and shot totals, with the Jets being outshot 33-27 on the night.
“We all know the body of work Carey’s had throughout his career,” Lowry added. “He’s a world-class goalie. He’s a perennial all-star, rightfully so. He’s one of the best goalies in the league. We know if we keep kind of doing what we’ve been preaching in the room, getting bodies to the net, making it hard for him to see the puck, you saw a couple of those plays we had the chances, it hits iron. A couple inches here or there, it’s a couple more by. It’s continuing to kind of stick and persevere, and we’ll be able to come out of his offensive slump that we’re in.”
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In reflecting back to his team’s 4-0 sweep over the Edmonton Oilers, Jets’ head coach Paul Maurice has no doubt that Winnipeg will come out with gumption on Monday for Game 4.
“I thought Edmonton came out real, real strong in Game 4 and look real determined,” he said of the North Division opening round matchup. “I think that focus that you have when you have no other option but to win, I think at times can be an advantage for you. So, I think we’ll be good to tomorrow.”
As for his words of wisdom after the disappointing 5-1 loss? Maurice said there wasn’t much talking that needed to be done.
“You go into an NHL room after it loses a game, 10 minutes after, there’s not going to be a lot of fun in there right now,” he said. “So, we deal with it that way. We don’t want to turn the music on, throw a party here. We just lost another hockey game and we got our backs against the wall. But we start working on tomorrow right after this game. So, we do our media, and then we start to recover and get better.”
Puck drop from the Bell Centre in Montreal is set for 7:00 PM central time on Monday. The game can be viewed live on Sportsnet and CBC in Canada, and NBC and the NHL Network in the United States.