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Jets expect boost from MTS Centre crowd

by Curtis Zupke /

ANAHEIM -- The Winnipeg Jets have never been happier to be heading home.

After five days on the road and two squandered third-period leads in the Western Conference First Round series against the Anaheim Ducks, the Jets departed Southern California on Sunday in anticipation of Winnipeg's first home Stanley Cup Playoff game since 1996.

Game 3 is Monday (9 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN, PRIME) at MTS Centre, where a frenzied crowd will try to help Winnipeg get back into a best-of-7 series that Anaheim leads 2-0.

"We know we've got a lot of fans that have been waiting a long time to watch playoff hockey and we're looking forward to getting back in this building and turning this thing around," forward Drew Stafford said. "I think it's going to make a huge difference. We can feed off that energy, use that to our advantage … to get home, get a little bit of a shot in the arm, a little changeup. Just being back in our own building, in front of fans, we're really looking forward to it."

Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice was glum after a 2-1 loss in Game 2 but the thought of returning to a special atmosphere with a lot of fanfare had him feeling better when he met with the media Sunday.

"There have been a number of games this year that we didn't have anything in the tank, and our crowd drove us through games for some pretty big wins," Maurice said. "We lean on our crowd an awful lot. The different dynamic in our building is that the fans are loud, the music isn't. The other places, the fans are sort of loud, the music will blow your ears off."

Most of the Jets were in grade school or kindergarten the last time Winnipeg hosted a postseason game. The original Jets franchise moved to Arizona in 1996, and the Jets were resurrected at the start of the 2011-12 season after the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg.

Defenseman Tyler Myers got a sense for how much the Winnipeg fans are focused on the postseason before the Jets left for Anaheim.

"You can even tell in the last month it's been ramping up more and more as the games got closer to the end," Myers said. "Now that it's finally here, we're expecting a very good crowd."

The Jets don't have answers for why the Ducks have found another level late in each of the first two games. Anaheim became the first team to take a 2-0 series lead when trailing in the third period of the first two games.

But there is not much separation between the teams, and it comes down to the type of goal-saving play that Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner made on Lee Stempniak late in Game 2.

"We're a confident team," defenseman Mark Stuart said. "We know we can beat these guys. It didn't get done the first two [games], but we're looking to get it done in the second two. We're moving on now. We know we can beat this team."

Maurice is concerned by the Jets' failure to generate offense and pointed to his power play.

"There's a bunch of tactical things that we're not doing particularly well," he said.

The return of forward Mathieu Perreault and a solid game from previously scratched defenseman Adam Pardy were bright spots for the Jets in Game 2, and prompted Maurice's line of the day when asked about Pardy.

"He should have slashed my tires and burned my house down for taking him out of the lineup, based on the way he played," Maurice said.

Anaheim has largely prevailed on skill. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf combined for three goals in Game 1, and Jakob Silfverberg, the NHL's shootout scoring leader who possesses a quick release, needed little space to score the game-winning goal on a wrist shot with 21 seconds left in Game 2.

Anaheim will need to combine skill and the ability to weather the energy and inspiration that the MTS Centre crowd will give the Jets for Game 3.

Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler was asked to name the loudest arena he's played in, and his first answer was telling.

"I'd say regular season in Winnipeg might have to be up there," Fowler said. "Really, any building in the playoffs. You look at our building, and these fans have been unbelievable these past two games. We certainly understand the type of energy that we're heading into in Winnipeg. For me personally and as a team, that's an opportunity you kind of have to grasp and realize you have a great opportunity to do something fun, heading in there and trying to get a couple of wins. Just kind of feed off the energy of the crowd, because it's going to be a heck of an environment, for sure."

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