ANAHEIM, Calif. — In the physicality and pace departments, the Winnipeg Jets showed they were playoff-ready. They just weren’t able to handle the playoff-tested, comeback-loving Anaheim Ducks.
The Jets took it to the Ducks but blew a lead and fell into penalty trouble to lose Game 1 of their first-round series 4-2 Thursday night at Honda Center.
"That’s what they’re good at in the third period," Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec said. "I think five-on-five we played a really good game, a solid game. We just have to be a little bit smarter with the penalties. It pretty much cost us the game."
Corey Perry scored the tying goal on the power play and then the winner later in the third period, only after a minute played and video review confirmed the puck went in the net.
"I wasn’t sure," said Pavelec, who finished with 29 saves but couldn’t keep Perry’s shot out. "I knew it was close. It was in."
Adam Lowry and Drew Stafford scored for the Jets, who played penalty-free hockey for the first 39 minutes and went stride for stride with the top seed in the Western Conference at least until the final part of the second period.
"I was happy with the game for the most part," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. "There was a lot more good in our game for us than the final result may dictate."
In addition to Perry’s two, Sami Vatanen and captain Ryan Getzlaf scored for Anaheim. Frederik Andersen finished with 24 saves.
Game 2 is Saturday night in Anaheim before the series turns to Winnipeg. Players and coaches on either side are gearing up for a long haul.
"It’s the beginning of potentially seven," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We know what we’re up against."
Despite the long layoff from the end of the regular season Saturday until Game 1, the Jets and Ducks were amped up from the start of warm-ups and came out flying. The pace was quick right away and the hits were too many to count — and maybe too punishing to last for a long series.
For all the big hits and pushing and shoving after whistles, Mark Scheifele getting called for roughing late in the second period turned the tide. Winnipeg’s first penalty led to Perry’s goal early in the second period.
"Those are the emotions that you have to control," Maurice said. "The six other times that happened in the game that there wasn’t a penalty, I think maybe we were lulled into a false sense of security about what was allowed after the whistle."
Perry’s power-play goal tied the score at 2, and then the two-time Canadian Olympic gold medallist thought he scored at even strength 13:21 into the third period. Play went on before video review showed the puck did cross the line and the Ducks had the lead.
"I had a feeling it was in," said Perry, who finished with four points. "His pad was back over the line on my first shot. I just had to make a second shot. I came back and asked our assistant coach and our video guy. He confirmed it was in on the overhead. You never know until they announce it."
Even though time went back on the clock, a penalty on Anaheim’s Clayton Stoner stood by rule. But the Jets couldn’t score on a power play, and a boarding penalty on Michael Frolik allowed Getzlaf to seal it.
"I thought it was a good clean hockey game," Getzlaf said. "Sometimes playoff games can get a little out of hand with guys doing stupid things, but I thought that both teams played a good honest game tonight and we were lucky to come out on top."
The Ducks scored two power-play goals for the first time since Jan. 11, handing Winnipeg a tough loss in the process.
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"We had an opportunity to take this one," Stafford said. "That one part of it stings, but at the same time, it’s not a one-game series. We expect this to be a hard-fought battle all the way to the end."
In the first playoff game for this group, Maurice was satisfied with not just the effort but the execution. Despite committing penalties again, he said the Jets wouldn’t be too down about the loss.
"It’s in some ways quite a bit less devastating than some of those losses that we faced two or three weeks ago," Maurice said. "We weren’t figuring this would be 16-0 or 4-0."
Notes — Jets forward Mathieu Perreault was scratched with a lower-body injury. … Four players the Ducks acquired before the trade deadline (defencemen Korbinian Holzer and James Wisniewski and forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Jiri Sekac) were healthy scratches.