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Jets' third-period woes continue in Game 5 loss to Blues

Failing to hold late lead has been seasonlong problem

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WINNIPEG -- It's said the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a whole new pressure and intensity, a different kind of game.

That may be, but Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round between the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues looked a whole lot like each team's regular season.

That was bad news for the Jets, who allowed a tiebreaking goal to Jaden Schwartz, his first of the series, with 15 seconds remaining in the third period and lost to the Blues 3-2 on Thursday after leading 2-0 at Bell MTS Place.

 

[WATCH: Blues vs. Jets Game 5 highlights | Complete series coverage]

 

Winnipeg trails the best-of-7 series and would be eliminated with a Game 6 loss at St. Louis on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS2, FS-MW).

The good news for the Jets may be the unique twist in this series that the road team has won every game.

The Blues did it in Games 1 and 2, including a third-period comeback in Game 1 to win 2-1. The Jets did it in Games 3 and 4, rallying to win 6-3 and 2-1 in overtime, respectively.

But this Game 5 home loss stings Winnipeg all the more, given its strong start and lead with about six minutes left.

"It's bitter, but it's playoffs," Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck said. "We've got to put it behind us. We've got a big Game 6 coming up, and a big Game 7.

"That's the most important thing you can do is put it behind us. We've got to come out with our game, continue playing our game, just grind them, grind them, that's all we can do."

Video: Blues rally in 3rd to beat Jets, grab 3-2 series lead

Winnipeg has lost six straight home games, including the regular season, and lost nine games (five in regulation, four in overtime) during the regular season when it led going into the third period. That was tied for the most in the NHL, with the Florida Panthers, who did not make the playoffs.

Down the stretch, the Jets took a lead into the third period against the Minnesota Wild and lost 3-2 on Feb. 26, against the San Jose Sharks and lost 5-4 on March 12, against the New York Islanders and lost 5-4 on March 28, and at the Colorado Avalanche and lost 3-2 in overtime on April 4, costing Winnipeg first place in the Central Division and creating a playoff matchup with surging St. Louis.

It's now happened twice in the series against the Blues. Jets captain Blake Wheeler said there will be no panic because of the way games have been lost.

"We've done that a few times this year," Wheeler said. "So if anything, we can figure it out.

"No different than being down 0-2. Happens all the time, man. Gotta win a hockey game. Won almost a hundred of them the last two years so we're confident we can do that."

Kevin Hayes, who scored at 13:35 of the first period to put Winnipeg ahead 2-0, said the Jets have already rehearsed the attitude they will need for Game 6.

"We've got to stay positive in this room," Hayes said. "We've been down before in this series and we'll have a good game next game. If we lose, we're done. That's enough motivation. Game 6 will be our best game."

Trailing 2-0 entering the third period, St. Louis started its comeback with a power-play goal from Ryan O'Reilly at 1:29 and Brayden Schenn's first of the series at 13:52 before Schwartz's late game-winner.

"That's an emotional one, especially the way it starts," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said about falling behind 12 seconds into the first period on a goal by Adam Lowry. "You're down early, but you can probably count the interviews I've had with (reporters) that we say we're a resilient group, we've got character in here, and tonight's a prime example of that."

Schenn suggested there wasn't anything extraordinary or heroic about this comeback, that the second intermission in the locker room was business as usual.

"We believe in one another and nothing was really said out of the ordinary," he said.

The difference, Blues coach Craig Berube said, was a four-minute penalty kill after rookie Robert Thomas took a double-minor for high sticking at 9:31 of the second period.

"I thought the third period, we seemed like we were more relaxed and made more plays with the puck," Berube said.

The Blues have been comeback specialists since they were last in the NHL standings Jan. 1. They started the season slowly (15-18-4) then went 30-10-5 after that to finish third in the Central Division.

"We trust our game, right?" Pietrangelo said. "We trust the fact that if we play the way we want to play we'll give ourselves a chance to win. That's what we did. It's not easy to go down 2-0 in the first period, especially against this team in this building. But we have character in here and we believe in the way we play."

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