ORANGE, Calif. — Forward Michael Frolik didn’t sleep well after the Winnipeg Jets gave up a goal in the final seconds in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks.
But a new day brought new perspective. Going back home to what should be a raucous MTS Centre for Game 3 Monday night is one of many things infusing the Jets with confidence despite facing a 2-0 series deficit.
"We have a great opportunity to head home and put on a show for our fans in Game 3," winger Drew Stafford said Sunday morning. "Bottom line, there’s nothing we can do about these last two games. You have to take what you can from it. But we’re feeling just fine right now."
Results aside, the Jets have plenty to feel fine about. Through two games, they’ve gone stride for stride and hit for hit with the top team in the Western Conference, led for over 30 minutes and gotten strong goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec.
"I don’t think we played our best, and we were still pretty close," Frolik said. "We still can be a little bit better. I think that’s what gives us that belief and confidence that we can be better, that we can beat that team."
They haven’t beaten that team, though, blowing two third-period leads. Penalties are a problem, most recently captain Andrew Ladd’s high-sticking infraction that led to Anaheim’s tying goal in Game 2.
Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice would like his team to be more disciplined and get the power play going to generate more offence and test Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen. Players said outside their hotel Sunday morning before flying back to Winnipeg that the penalty kill needs some improvement, too, but going to the box fewer times would also help.
Maurice didn’t mind the mood being a little sour the morning after a rough loss and hopes his team can harness that.
"There’s a long history of down 2-0 and feeling pretty down about yourself and coming back and winning the series," Maurice said. "I’m going to let that hang around for a little while because they’re tight games and it’s just a matter of inches at times and that’s the frustrating part.
"You talk about the things that we need to do better, you get your energy back up and you get back home and get excited by the game."
More than most teams going home down 2-0, the Jets have plenty to be excited about because they’ll be playing the first NHL playoff game in Winnipeg since 1996. There’s a chance of snow outside, and a guarantee of the first "Winnipeg Whiteout" in almost 20 years.
"We know we’ve got a lot of fans that have been waiting a long time to watch playoff hockey, and we’re looking forward to getting back in that building and turning this thing around," Stafford said.
Years of anticipation, even just the build-up from 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers moved there, should make for a unique playoff atmosphere.
"We know how loud their building is on a normal night," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said Saturday night at Honda Center. "I’ve got to believe that it’s going to be a little bit more ramped up come Monday night."
During the regular season, Maurice said there were games where his players didn’t have anything left in the tank and the crowd "drove" them to some big wins.
"We lean on our crowd an awful lot," Maurice said. "The different dynamic in our building is that the fans are loud and the music isn’t. The other places the fans are sort of loud but the music will blow your ears off."
On the ice in Anaheim, the Jets haven’t gotten blown out despite being down 2-0 in the series. Being so close and losing, especially in the final minute, makes coming back a challenge.
Stafford isn’t worried.
"It doesn’t matter: You lose with 20 seconds left or you lose 4-1, a loss is a loss in the playoffs," he said. "We have to find ways to get better. … I don’t think for Game 3 we’re going to change any style of how we’re playing. One thing we need to change is everyone raising their level of play."