It all started so well for the Jets, and ended so poorly, which is how an alarmingly large number of games have gone for Winnipeg this year, and is why there are potentially an alarmingly small number of games left for them. For the 11th time this season, the Jets lost a game they had led entering the third period. Few have ended quite so abruptly or painfully as this one, however, as Jaden Schwartz knocked in a redirect with 15 seconds left to give St. Louis the 3-2 series lead.
It is an unpleasant reflection of just how bad the Jets have been at protecting leads that Blake Wheeler cited their extensive experience with not letting that specific flavor of collapse taint their subsequent games. “We’ve done that a few times this year,” Winnipeg’s captain said. “So if anything, we can figure it out.”
As I said, this one started so well for them, with Adam Lowry scoring just 12 seconds into the game:
After that, Jets fans started serenading Blues goalie Jordan Binnington with chants of “You look nervous,” a reaction to the rookie phenom’s rhetorical question to reporters on the eve of the series, “Do I look nervous?”
Binnington took it in good cheer:
“Yeah, that’s incredible,” Binnington said of hearing the chants. “You get what you ask for because when I was younger, I really enjoyed that stuff and always wanted it, and now it’s here. It doesn’t feel as good as I thought, but it’s cool, it’s really cool.”
The Winnipeg crowd’s chestiness here likely masked their own shot nerves—they haven’t seen a big win with their own eyes in an abnormally long time. Because, in addition to their issues with third-period leads, the Jets have now lost six straight games at home dating back to the regular season, and have lost five straight postseason home games and seven of eight dating back to last year’s playoffs.
But things looked brighter after the Jets doubled their lead, then took that 2-0 lead into the third. Would they shake both demons at once? (They would not, which you already knew because you watched the game or read the first paragraph of this blog or both.) Ryan O’Reilly and Brayden Schenn scored to tie things up and put fans’ sphincters back in their throats, and then, well, this:
Listen to the crowd upon Schwartz’s goal. A gasp, then a moan. That is not the sound of shock or even disappointment. That’s horror.
This series isn’t over! Wheeler broke it down:
“No different than being down 0-2. Happens all the time, man. Gotta win a hockey game. Won almost a hundred of them the last two years. So we’re confident we can do that,” Blake Wheeler said of the challenge ahead.
They have indeed won many hockey games over the past couple of years. And could certainly win Game 6 on Saturday night in St. Louis; that’d be almost the expected outcome in a weird, tight series where the road team has won every game. But the Jets own home-ice advantage in this series, which may ultimately prove a curse, because that means in order to advance, they’ll also need to win one back in Winnipeg. God help that crowd if the Jets enter the third period of Game 7 with a lead.