Exactly two weeks after sweeping the Edmonton Oilers, the Winnipeg Jets were on the other end of a series sweep.
Tyler Toffoli scored the game-winner just 1:39 into overtime as the Montreal Canadiens beat the Jets 3-2 to win the series 4-0 and end the Jets’ season.
Facing elimination for the first time in the playoffs, the Jets showed no sense of urgency as they were badly outplayed, out chanced, and outshot in the series clincher.
“I think you saw a team that had spent what it had to spend, and was hanging on in this game tonight,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “And it wasn’t from a lack of character, or a lack of will, but we were behind it, and that was obvious in the game.”
The Jets didn’t have a lead the entire series.
“We just couldn’t get the first goal,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “We just couldn’t do it all series. And that plays right into their hands.
“I really felt like, in any of these games, probably outside the first one, Games 2 through 4, we just couldn’t find a way to get that first goal. It could be a different series, but we didn’t. You just got give them so much credit. They’re playing unbelievable right now.”
The Jets fell behind by a pair of goals in the first period, but Jets defenceman Logan Stanley scored his first two career playoff goals in the span of just four minutes in the second frame to get the game to overtime.
“It’s all bitter right now,” Stanley said. “It’s the playoffs – it doesn’t matter who scores. You win as a team and you lose as a team. I’m glad I got a couple by him (Carey Price) to try and help the team, but at the end of the day we lost as a team, so it stings right now.”
The Jets really had no business winning Game 4 as the contest was mostly dominated by the Habs with little pushback from the Jets with their backs against the wall.
“Just execution I think,” said forward Adam Lowry. “Little details in the game, they were better than us in a lot of areas. And that’s the difference.”
Pierre-Luc Dubois was moved up and down the lineup in Game 4 and even spent some time playing on the fourth line. He finished the year by going 23 straight games without scoring a goal.
In the end, the Jets were outshot 42-16 in a game they had to win. They mustered only five shots on goal in the third period and overtime combined.
The Jets really never found in their footing in the series after getting nine days off after eliminating the Edmonton Oilers.
“You roll through four games against a team with the two best scorers in the league and you like the defensive game,” Maurice said. “And then you get beat four straight times. They were good, and they were better than we were in the series and they deserve to win.”
But the head coach didn’t feel the game was as lopsided as the numbers indicated.
“They were on us tonight,” said Maurice. “But I don’t think the shot clock was particularly accurate at times. But I’m not saying that it was close. They were better than we were tonight.”
The Jets now have just a 1-5 record in elimination games since moving back to Winnipeg. Their only victory came in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs in a Game 7 win over the Nashville Predators.
The Canadiens have won seven straight games and have now played 437 consecutive minutes without trailing in a game which is the second longest stretch in Stanley Cup Playoffs history.
Montreal would open the scoring on the powerplay after Andrew Copp took a penalty for high-sticking. Nate Thompson turned the puck over at the Winnipeg blue line, and Erik Gustafsson’s slap shot hit the post and beat a screened Connor Hellebuyck,
The Canadiens scored the first goal in every game of the series.
The Jets would immediately get a chance to answer but were unable to punish a penalty to Montreal’s Brett Kulak. Winnipeg struggled to establish time in the offensive zone, with numerous dump-ins quickly transitioned by the Canadiens.
Montreal would add to their lead just before intermission. A gorgeous tip by Artturi Lehkonen off a shot by Kulak beat Hellebuyck with 51 seconds left in the frame. The Canadiens outshot the Jets 12-7 in the first period.
Stanley would give the Jets life in the second period. The towering rookie defenceman beat Price on the blocker side with a perfectly placed wrist shot into the top corner for his first career playoff goal.
The first-year defenceman wasn’t done there. After a save by Hellebuyck on Brendan Gallagher, the Jets took the puck the other way and Kyle Connor found Stanley for a one-timer opportunity, and he slapped the puck past Price for his second of the night.
Montreal continued to dominate Winnipeg in the shot column through 40 minutes, outshooting the Jets 13-4 in the second period.
That trend continued into the third. Montreal was up 37-12 in the shot column by the halfway mark of the period. Hellebuyck kept the Jets in the game with several key saves. Despite a shot margin of 39-16 through regulation, the score remained tied,
Toffoli would clinch the series for Montreal after a cross-crease pass by Cole Caufield found the veteran forward wide open, and he blasted the puck past a sprawling Hellebuyck.
Toffoli (2 goals, 3 assists) had a point in every game of the series and is now on a six-game point streak in the playoffs.
The loss caps off a series where the Jets struggled to create offence. Winnipeg scored just six goals in the four-game series and was shut out in Game 2. Kyle Connor was the lone player on the Jets’ top two lines to score in the series. The other goals came from Stanley (2), Adam Lowry (2), and Derek Forbort.
Star centre Mark Scheifele finished the playoffs serving a suspension for his Game 1 hit on Canadiens forward Jake Evans and will miss the opening game of next year’s regular season.
With the victory, the Canadiens advance out of the all-Canadian North Division and will be the first team from the country to face American opposition in 2021. They will face the winner of the series between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche, which is tied 2-2.
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