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Jets fall to Canadiens in Game 1

"They certainly got off to a good lead tonight and it was just tough to claw our way back." -Wheeler

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

WINNIPEG - Blake Wheeler perhaps said it best after Game 1 against the Montreal Canadiens.

"I think our game plan, coming into the series was spot on," he said. "Just didn't execute."

The Winnipeg Jets fell behind by a score of 2-0 just 5:10 into the hockey game and, despite their best efforts to claw back - getting within one goal three separate times - couldn't get back on even footing as the Canadiens took Game 1 by a score of 5-3.

"It's tough to match what those guys have just been through. They just won an emotional Game 7 and they're kind of riding it high and we've just been kind of sitting on our hands," said Wheeler of the Jets' nine-day break between games. "So, it's tough to match that and they certainly got off to a good lead tonight and it was just tough to claw our way back."

Adam Lowry, Derek Forbort, and Kyle Connor scored for the Jets in the game, but it wasn't enough to square things up, as the Jets dropped their first game of the postseason.

Winnipeg also dealt with two injuries, as Paul Stastny didn't play Wednesday night and is considered day-to-day. Then, Dylan DeMelo left the game after his first shift with a lower-body injury and didn't return.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice said he hopes to have an update on DeMelo on Thursday.

Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice 

Even with the injuries, the Jets gave credit where it was due.

"You've got to give (Montreal) a lot of credit. They played a heck of a game," said Wheeler. "I think we can get back to some of the things we talked about coming into the series and it's not going to guarantee us success, but I think it'll give us an opportunity to have a little bit more success than we did tonight."

Montreal opened the scoring 3:30 into the game as Jesperi Kotkaniemi deflected a Jeff Petry slapshot past Connor Hellebuyck for his fourth of the postseason, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.

Montreal built that lead to 2-0 just 1:40 later, as Eric Staal tapped home a back door pass from Corey Perry.

"We weren't as good as we have been," said Maurice. "We didn't come to the rink to play regular-season hockey. We understand, we're excited about the challenge we have here. We can get better. We know that. They played a hell of a game."

The Jets would cut that lead in half with 8:08 left in the first period, when Lowry picked the pocket of Erik Gustafsson at the Jets blue line. That sent Lowry in on a shorthanded breakaway, and the big Jets forward slipped a backhand through Carey Price to make it 2-1.

Video: POSTGAME | Ehlers, Hellebuyck

It was Lowry's fifth career shorthanded goal, but first in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think we just lacked a little sharpness early. A couple of mental mistakes," said Lowry. "That's one of those things where, they get out to the lead and you dig yourself a hole, it's tough to come back but I liked the way we fought back in the game."

Winnipeg kept up the pressure with some offensive zone time, but before the end of the first, Nick Suzuki capitalized on a two-on-one chance after a sustained offensive zone shift for the Jets. Suzuki kept on that two-on-one chance, and tucked it around a sliding Hellebuyck.

After a scoreless second, the Jets got back within one again. This time, it was Forbort snapping home his first of the playoffs from the left circle. 

Video: POSTGAME | Wheeler, Lowry

But a delay of game penalty put the Jets on the penalty kill shortly after, leading to a stretch pass to Shea Weber, who got lost on the ice as the Jets pushed the puck into the Montreal zone. Weber's breakaway chance was stopped by Hellebuyck, but Brendan Gallagher followed the play and tapped home the rebound, putting Montreal up 4-2 with the power play marker.

"We got behind it after the first and then we gave up one on the power play, but other than that, yeah they had some chances," said Maurice. "I don't think that had anything to do with what we gave up. I didn't think that we were cheating on plays. I thought that the plays we tried to make were dangerous and there wasn't a high payoff to them."

The Jets continued to battle, and got back within one when Connor teed off on a one-timer, off a cross-ice feed from Nikolaj Ehlers, with Hellebuyck on the bench for an extra attacker.

With 1:42 left in regulation, the Jets were back within one.

Video: MTL@WPG, Gm1: Connor rockets Ehlers one-timer home

However, Montreal restored their two-goal cushion again. Jake Evans deposited a wrap around with Hellebuyck out for the extra skater to make it 5-3.

Mark Scheifele then delivered a check on Evans that left the Montreal forward injured on the ice.

Scheifele was assessed a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct.

"Hopefully the young man is going to be all right," said Maurice of Evans. "It's such a highly unusual play because you're backchecking back to kill and empty-net play, you're coming full speed. When Mark stopped skating he kept his arms in. It's a heavy, heavy hit. There's no doubt about that. I'm sure the league will have its opinion."

Game 2 between the Jets and Canadiens is Friday night.

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