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Apr 22, 2024 9:04 pm

Jets, Avs aim to tighten up defense after high-scoring Game 1

Connor Winnipeg Jets

Shoring up the defense will likely be a focus for both the visiting Colorado Avalanche and the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night in Game 2 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

The old adage that tight checking and limited scoring opportunities are part of playoff hockey was thrown out the window in Game 1, as the Jets held on for a wild 7-6 win on Sunday.

One difference in the series opener was the goaltending. Despite allowing six goals, Connor Hellebuyck was strong for the Jets, making 40 saves. Meanwhile, Alexandar Georgiev stopped 16 shots for the Avalanche.

Georgiev has given up 29 goals over his past six appearances dating back to the regular season. Backup goaltender Justus Annunen (illness) was not available on Sunday, and on Monday, Colorado coach Jared Bednar said Annunen was still sick. Annunen went 8-4-1 with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage as Georgiev’s backup during the regular season.

“It’s going to be about mental toughness, right? Not just for him, for our group,” Bednar said on Monday when asked about Georgiev. “You have to be able to reset. Whether we won last night or lost last night … you gotta reset and put it behind you.”

Hellebuyck isn’t facing similar questions after giving up six goals on 46 shots.

“It could have been worse,” Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness said. “Seriously. We don’t give up that many chances. We don’t give up that many shots. And Connor had to play better, and he made a lot of big saves at the right time, which he always does. I’m not hanging any of those goals on him.”

Kyle Connor and Adam Lowry each scored twice for Winnipeg, the No. 2 seed in the Central Division. Connor also had an assist, while Mark Scheifele notched a goal and two assists and Josh Morrissey added a goal and an assist.

On Monday, Bowness talked about the need to make it harder for the Avalanche to enter the Jets’ zone.

“They got in way too easy, and we didn’t pick up that second wave of defensemen coming up. They were able to get in and it wasn’t one and done,” Bowness said. “Sometimes those rushes are one and done, we get the puck and go. It was a rush, a chance, and we were scrambling too much. We didn’t end enough plays.”

The Jets tied a franchise record for most goals in a playoff game (also scoring seven in 2018 vs. Nashville) and ended a four-game home losing streak in the postseason.

Cale Makar notched a goal and two assists and Nathan MacKinnon and Artturi Lehkonen each contributed a goal and an assist for the Avalanche, the No. 3 seed in the Central.

MacKinnon gave the Avalanche a 3-2 lead late in the first on Sunday, but Winnipeg scored the next four goals and eventually led 7-4 before Colorado’s late rally fell short.

“I thought our start was great tonight,” Bednar said Sunday. “We haven’t played the Jets well this year. We played a good game early in the season, but that’s our first taste of us playing hard and them playing hard and seeing what’s going to happen. And it’s a seven-game series.”

–Field Level Media

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