While the pressure is on the Winnipeg Jets, they are doing their best to limit the anxiety as they hit the road for Sunday’s crucial clash with the Montreal Canadiens trailing 2-0 in their second-round playoff series.
Coming off a pair of home losses to kick off the series, including Friday’s 1-0 defeat, the Jets believe they are more than capable of getting back into the series in the two games at Montreal.
The Jets have their own history to draw upon. In 2019, they lost twice at home to the St. Louis Blues but won a pair of road games to get even before ultimately dropping the series.
“We feel we’ve got to make the same kind of improvement in Game 3, and that’s the big one,” coach Paul 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.”
Solving Montreal goaltender Carey Price would help the cause, even if the Jets will be without top-line center Mark Scheifele due to a suspension for three more games.
“Aside from not scoring, we played a full 60 (minutes on Friday),” Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers said. “We played hard and we’ve got to keep that going. We work hard for each other; it’s going to go well.”
The Jets might have one player return from injury. Center Paul Stastny, who missed the first two games with an undisclosed injury, made the trip to Montreal.
The Canadiens, who trailed the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 in games during the opening round before roaring back, are riding a five-game winning streak in which they haven’t trailed. It’s the first time that has happened in a single NHL postseason since the Los Angeles Kings’ run in 2012.
“When we had our backs against the wall (against Toronto), I think we all looked at ourselves in the mirror and I think we all saw that we (were) much better,” forward Phillip Danault said. “This couldn’t be it. It couldn’t be like that. We went through a lot and we’ve got a tight group. Good energy in the locker room.”
In turn, the Canadiens are controlling the pace of the game by getting off to fast starts.
“We’re really playing together. Everyone’s supporting the puck and coming back in the defensive zone,” defenseman Ben Chiarot said. “There are easy outs all over the place. They have an aggressive forecheck. We’re doing a good job of supporting each other and defending well in our own zone. It’s a big key why we’re having success.”
Timely offense and the play of Price, who is showing why he’s been among the best goalies in the league since he was a rookie in 2007-08, have also been major factors. Through nine playoff games, Price has posted a 2.11 goals-against average and .935 save percentage to lead the underdog Canadiens.
“He’s solid. He’s really in the zone and he wants to win,” Danault said of Price. “He gives a chance to win every game. He gives us wings.”
For his part, Price just shrugs off the praise as calmly as he’s been making saves.
“We’re playing well on both sides of the puck,” Price said after his first shutout of this year’s playoffs and eighth of his career. “We’re just making smart decisions and backing each other up all over the ice.”
–Field Level Media