Jets plan to bounce back after opening loss to Blues

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The Stanley Cup playoffs are supposed to be nothing like the NHL’s regular season. However, the first game of the first-round series between the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues had some eerie similarities to the previous couple of months.

While rookie St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington was a game-changer for his side, the Jets stumbled and wasted a third-period lead in the 2-1 road victory by the Blues on Wednesday.

“It’s always tough to lose the game in the third,” Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine told the Winnipeg Sun. “That should be our focus in the future, to focus on those third periods and not always give up the lead. We’ve had a couple of those where they score the winning goal in the last two minutes, so it’s always tough. But that’s how it goes sometimes.”

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will be Friday in Winnipeg, and the Jets — who struggled since the start of February and closed out the regular season with a 13-14-3 run — can ill afford to drop the next outing before the series shifts to St. Louis for two games.

“There’s some things we can tighten up defensively, but for the most part there’s a lot we can build off and get after it again 1/8Friday 3/8 night,” Blake Wheeler said after Thursday’s practice.

There are a few improvements the Jets must make to even the series, but maybe the biggest would be to solve Binnington, who sparkled with a 24-save performance in the opener and kept his team in the game until it could mount the comeback capped by Tyler Bozak‘s winning tally with 2:05 remaining.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

“The mindset was just compete to the end and give the team a chance to win,” Binnington told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That buzzer couldn’t have come sooner. We were just battling throughout in our D-zone. It was a grind right till the end. So it was a good win.”

Binnington’s biggest stop came in the final seconds against Mark Scheifele, who set an early tone by taking a penalty in the opening minute with a hit on the goalie when he was behind the net to play a puck.

“It’s playoff hockey,” Binnington said. “I can take a hit.”

In NHL history, teams that win the first game of a best-of-seven series end up on top 68.5% of the time. The Jets aren’t facing impossible odds against coming back nor are the Blues a slam dunk, but undoubtedly Friday’s game looms as a huge turning point.

“It was a tough bounce at the end for our line. That’s the way it goes. We just need to focus on the next game,” Laine said.

“Well it’s one win, but it’s a good win for sure,” Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. “We come in here, this is a tough building and it’s an excellent team over there. It’s going to be a battle. We were on the right side tonight.”

–Field Level Media

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.