WINNIPEG – Deafening despite being given so little to cheer about in the playoffs, Winnipeg Jets fans entertained themselves in the first period Thursday with the chant: “You look nervous! You look nervous!”
It was a clever rebuke of St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington’s now-famous response, “Do I look nervous?” when the rookie was asked in February about his uncanny calmness in winning tight games.
The chant came after the Jets, apparently surging in their first-round National Hockey League playoff series, put two pucks past Binnington in the first 14 minutes.
But Binnington doesn’t do nervous. The Jets do.
They blew a two-goal, third-period lead on home ice and lost Game 5 3-2 when Jaden Schwartz batted an airborne Hail Mary centring pass into the Jets’ goal with 15 seconds remaining – about 10 seconds after Winnipeg defenceman Jacob Trouba tried to eat the puck behind the net rather than play it out of his zone.
It capped six minutes of nervousness for the Jets after the Blues tied the game at 13:52 on a controversial goal by Brayden Schenn, who shot a loose puck into the net a nanosecond after it was pushed from its pegs by fallen St. Louis forward Oskar Sundqvist. Officials correctly ruled that the Blue was knocked into the net by Winnipeg defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, who was beaten on the play.
Schenn and Schwartz, important forwards for St. Louis, hadn’t scored in this series. There was some luck in both goals.
“Lucky pinballs,” Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck claimed.
But if the Jets were unlucky, they were predictably so. This heavy, talented, fast team, which is backed by some of the loudest fans in the NHL, have managed to lose seven of their last eight playoff games on home ice.
If they could win at home, they’d have made the Stanley Cup Final last spring. If they could win at home, they’d have won this series by Game 5 after sweeping two games in St. Louis. Instead, the Jets head back across the border trailing the Blues 3-2 – one game away from elimination in Game 6 on Saturday.
Missouri is the “Show-Me State.” But it’s home in Winnipeg where the Jets haven’t shown enough.
“You’re going to eat it for the rest of the night,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said of the disappointment. “And then we’ll go through the places in our game that we need to tighten up and get better at. We’ll deal with the goals so (players) understand it. And then you have an edge, certainly, going into the game in terms of. . . you’re going to be a little grumpy over that one.”
Perhaps more than a little grumpy.
The Jets appeared to crack the Binnington code when they swept games in St. Louis Sunday and Tuesday to even the series after losing the first two.
On Thursday, Adam Lowry scored at 12 seconds – 12 seconds! – and Kevin Hayes made it 2-0 at 13:35, jamming his own rebound through Binnington after charging around defenceman Joel Edmundson to get to the net.
Hayes was going to score again 7 ½ minutes into the second period but somehow stopped his own shot from going in when he flailed at a trickling puck to help it over the goal-line and accidentally bumped it the wrong way as he was being tackled by Colton Parayko.
“I tipped it through (Binnington’s) legs and went to go get it, and Parayko lifted up my stick,” Hayes explained. “And my stick came down and hit it out.”
The play would have seemed comical in hindsight had the Jets won. It felt excruciating after they lost.
Instead of leading 3-0, the Jets got stuck on two goals against Binnington.
Ryan O’Reilly’s power-play rebound marker cut the Winnipeg lead to 2-1 at 1:29 of the third period, but the Jets really didn’t get the jitters until Schenn’s tying goal about 12 minutes later.
After that, they looked like a team about to blow something, a team unable in its last three playoff series to close out games on home ice.
Trouba had time and space before the winning goal to move the puck, but froze behind the Winnipeg net and tried to shield it against the boards. It squirted to Bozak.
“Yeah, it was probably just a little too much time on the clock to be eating the puck there,” Maurice said. “We can move it. But when you’re not sure where you want to put the puck, then the next best thing is to hang onto it. And we came out with it.”
The Jets have home-ice “advantage” in this series; they can’t advance without winning at least once in front of their boisterous fans. But they won’t get another chance to try unless they win Saturday in St. Louis. Show me.
“No different than being down 0-2,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “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.”