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Jets' patience rewarded with Game 3 victory against Blues

Keep grinding to get back into Western series

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- The Winnipeg Jets didn't let their frustration paralyze them when they fell behind 2-0 to the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference First Round.

Instead, the Jets' belief they could find a foothold in the series was rewarded with a six-goal outburst in the final two periods of Game 3 in a 6-3 victory against the Blues at Enterprise Center on Sunday.

The Blues lead the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series 2-1. Game 4 is at Enterprise Center on Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, TVAS, SN, FS-MW).

"I think we've liked a big bulk of our series so far so that was a real positive coming into tonight," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. "We didn't have to reinvent the wheel and have to pull an 'A' game out of the bag when we've been playing terrible the first two games.

"It was right there for us, so we just really had to stay with it. It was more of a mental thing to overcome than a physical thing. It's going to be a tight series. We came into it expecting it to go the distance and we're fighting tooth and nail to make that happen."

 

[WATCH: Jets vs. Blues Game 3 highlights | Complete series coverage]

 

When the Jets lost the first two games at home, extending their playoff losing streak to six going back to the five-game loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final last year, coach Paul Maurice said he had to make an effort not to sound unrealistic when he said only a few small things might change a result.

"We weren't chasing the game as much and we just skated a little bit better," Maurice said. "I liked our first two games maybe more than I let on; I just didn't want to sound like we were happy about losing hockey. I didn't think we were that far off. We played well.

"This is going to be a good, tight and probably seven-game series. I mean it's a grinder. So I liked our game. I think we skated a bit better but ... I wasn't as down on the first two."

The Jets dominated much of the first period, outshooting the Blues 13-7 but thanks to several remarkable saves by Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, St. Louis led 1-0 with a power-play goal by David Perron at 19:12.

Blues coach Craig Berube said the Jets might have had four goals in the period but for Binnington, the rookie who had a .926 save percentage in the first two games.

Winnipeg kept pressing to start the second period and got goals from Kevin Hayes, Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor in the first nine minutes of the period to lead 3-1.

"We played great in the first," said Hayes, whose wrist shot from the point nicked the stick of Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, went off the post and in at 4:57 of the second period. "We were down 1-0 but we were getting good looks. He stood on his head again and he made some big saves and to get a greasy one like that kind of jumpstarted us and then we scored six."

Video: Jets score six in Game 3, cut series deficit to 2-1

Wheeler agreed getting some favorable bounce around Binnington had been hard to come by, including in the first period on Sunday.

"If you create that type of offense consistently throughout the game and it doesn't go, what can you do?" Wheeler said. "Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the goalie pulling those out of a hat. We weren't down after the first. We were controlling the play and down a goal. We figured if we keep doing that over and over again, we were going to get one to go in and luckily enough we got one to bounce for us."

In the context of being persistent and continually playing the "right way," Wheeler said the puck typically does not lie by the end of a game.

"It means that you do the right things and do them over and over and over again, and even if you're snakebit or bounces aren't going your way, you keep that faith and keep on it," Wheeler said. "The thing's shaped weird. It's going to bounce your way once in a while."

Winnipeg got two goals from Connor and others from Hayes, Brandon Tanev, Dustin Byfuglien and Laine, giving them a goal-scorer from each of its four lines.

"I think there's still lots of room to improve and especially with the lead I still think we can play better defense but overall only wins count and that was a great win for us," said Laine, who has scored in each game of the series.

The only thing the Jets are worried about is keeping the same mindset for Game 4, to keep repeating the aggressive, skating game they brought to Game 3.

"They're a great team over there," Byfuglien said. "The last few games we, as a group, didn't think we were far off. It was just minor little things. We knew if we just stuck to our game plan eventually it would start going our way. We did alright tonight, we can take some positives out of it. We still got a lot of hockey left."

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