It had been 22 years since a Winnipeg Jets team won a playoff game, and that wasn’t even these Winnipeg Jets. That was a different franchise altogether; it’s in Arizona now. This Jets franchise, including its time in Atlanta, had never won a playoff game. But before a crazy, popcorn-erupting, whited-out crowd, the Jets thoroughly outplayed and narrowly beat the Wild in Game 1, and now all that history is over.
“It’s nice to have won one now because that was kind of what people talked about before — this team has never won a playoff game, they’ve only been there twice,” said Bryan Little, who joined the team in 2007-08. “It’s nice to get that off our backs and, hopefully, we get a lot more.”
It was certainly hairy there for a while—two quick Minnesota goals early in the third and against the run of play erased a 1-0 lead—but two responses, one from a very likely source and the other from maybe the least likely, gave Winnipeg the 3-2 win.
The tying goal came from Patrik Laine, the big, questionably bearded 19-year-old who led the team with 44 goals this season. If the Jets go far, and even if they don’t, you’re probably going to see a lot of this.
Laine, you might have wagered on. You would never have put good money on the game-winning goal belonging to Joe Morrow, a 25-year-old defenseman on his third team. Morrow came over from Montreal on the trade deadline for a fourth-round pick; he was a pure depth acquisition. And depth, especially on the blue line, is something you never want to need but are glad to have when you do.
So, with injuries to Dmitry Kulikov and Toby Enstrom, there was Morrow in the second pairing with Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien can handle the monster hits, while Morrow becomes ... a playoff hero?
Morrow’s shot through traffic clipped Charlie Coyle’s stick and went through Devan Dubnyk, the Jets hung on, and it’s a good start in Winnipeg.
“If you believe in karma and trying to be a good person and eventually, you get rewarded for it?” Morrow said. “Yeah, absolutely. Like I’ve said before. I’ve had a major roller-coaster of an NHL career so far. To have a little, I don’t even know if you want to call it a Cinderella story of a night tonight, it makes you feel good. It makes all of the bad times and all of the times you’ve battled so hard to try and get an opportunity, it makes them go away. It washes them away and you get to enjoy it in front of a crowd like this and a city like this.”
The Jets are good, maybe great, one of let’s say four teams in the league right now without true glaring weaknesses. But if you had to identify soft spots, they’d be on the back end, and they’d be the roster’s inexperience. It’s got to be heartening that neither showed up as an issue in Game 1.