Most people did not think that the battle to escape the Scotia North would be between the Montreal Canadiens and the Winnipeg Jets but that’s exactly the situation we had on Wednesday night in Winnipeg.
Game 1 of the second round of the North Division playoffs would also see for the first time since April 2020 a crowd watching a game at the home of the Jets.
The big focus, though, is the status of Jake Evans. Evans was hit hard by Mark Scheifele at the same moment as he put in the wraparound goal to make it 5-3 in the final minute of play. The result would see Evans lying on the ice motionless as medical staff from both teams rushed to his aid after the hit. Evans was taken off the ice on a stretcher but was not taken to the hospital. He arrived back at the team hotel later that evening, John Shannon reported.
Five-hundred health care workers in Winnipeg who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 were allowed into Bell MTS Place for Game 1 and will also be in attendance for Game 2.
The Canadiens would be the ones drawing first blood in the opener and they wouldn’t take long to get it done.
Jesperi Kotkanimei would beat Connor Helleybyuck at the 3:30 mark of the first and less than two minutes later at the 5:10 mark, Eric Staal would give Montreal a 2-0 lead.
Adam Lowry would cut the Canadiens lead in half with his first goal of the playoffs while shorthanded to give the handful of fans at MTS Centre something to cheer about.
The lead would be extended once again thanks to Nick Suzuki finishing off a two-on-one at 17:14 of the second that will go down as one of the top plays of this postseason.
After a scoreless second period, Winnipeg would battle back to once again make things a one-goal game as Derek Forbort would take advantage at the 9:22 mark of a sequence in the third that saw the Habs unable to clear the puck from their offensive zone.
For much of the third no matter how often the Jets would cut into the Montreal lead, there would be a reply from the visitors. Montreal would once again open up the two-goal lead thanks to Brendan Gallagher scoring at the 11:04 mark by taking advantage of a rebound after Shea Webber was stopped on a breakaway.
Winnipeg showed they weren’t ready to give in as Kyle Connor made things interesting as he’d score on a Jets powerplay at the 18:18 mark of the third.
In the end, Montreal would close out Game 1 with a 5-3 win after Evans’ goal at 19:03. But the storylines now will be on top of Winnipeg looking to tie the series will be now what is the health status of Evans and what will the discipline look like towards Schiefle as Evans was in a vulnerable position on the play.
Game 2 is on Friday before the series shifts to Montreal for Game 3.