All sorts of questions surrounded the Winnipeg Jets when they dropped two close games — both in the third period — to begin their Western Conference First Round series with the St. Louis Blues.
Those third-period struggles had followed them into the playoffs and doubts about their ability to wash away those sins only intensified.
But an emphatic 6-3 win in Game 3 quelled some of those fears on Sunday, and when Kyle Connor jammed home a loose puck at 6:02 of overtime on Tuesday to give Winnipeg a 2-1 lead, and more importantly, a clean slate in the best-of-7 series that is now all tied up 2-2, several more layers of question marks released their hold on the team.
Indeed, when the series shifts back to Bell MTS Place on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET; USA), it will be the resolve of the Blues that will be the focal point.
The best-of-7 is now a best-of-3, and Winnipeg gets two games at home, although the home team has yet to emerge with a victory so far in the series.
Regulation found two teams that weathered the storms each other brought. Winnipeg held the fort in the first and St. Louis stood tall in the second.
In the third, St. Louis struck first, with Vladimir Tarasenko scoring early on the power play. The Jets would respond, with a centering pass from Kyle Connor finding the stick of Mark Scheifele, who produced one of the deftest deflections you’ll see to finally crack Jordan Binnington.
Both Binnington and his counterpart Connor Hellebuyck were remarkable in the game. Binnington, the rookie sensation, ended with 37 saves while Hellebuyck stopped 31.
Who might take Game 5? These games (outside of Game 3) have been incredibly close. Winnipeg has finally started to hit its stride, and their physical game appears to be wearing on St. Louis. Paul Maurice made some adjustments ahead of Game 3, including reuniting the line with Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev.
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It was a logical move to make given the Jets needed more offensive zone time, and it’s paid off in spades. The line has dominated in the past two games.
And then there’s Patrik Laine, who didn’t score for a fourth straight game but punished the Blues on the walls. Laine, 20, has made massive strides in four games now in becoming a power forward. He’s all over the place and is throwing his large frame around. A Laine that can snipe like he does and be dominant physically won’t be easy for anyone to handle moving forward.
Quick note: the Jets won their first playoff overtime game in franchise history. They were 0-2 heading into Tuesday’s game.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck