WINNIPEG – Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Eric Staal scored early in the first period to set the stage for the Montreal Canadiens’ 5-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 1 of their second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday.
Montreal also scored a Nick suzuki, Brendan Gallagher and Jake evans. Joel edmundson and Jeff petry each added a pair of assists. Carey Award made 27 saves.
The victory was marred when Evans had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher after scoring a goal in an empty net with 57 seconds left. He was crushed by the center of the Jets Mark Scheifele as he rounded the net to score and lay down on the ice. Scheifele was given a middle finger for accusation and misconduct in the game.
Adam lowry, Derek forbort and Kyle connor, with 1:42 remaining in the third, scored for Winnipeg. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 28 shots.
Game 2 of the best of seven series is Friday in Winnipeg.
Three of Montreal’s goals came in the first period, starting with Kotkaniemi at 3:30 and Staal at 5:10.
Players had more than crowd noise to hear inside Bell MTS Place for the first time this season.
The Manitoba government is allowing 500 fully immunized healthcare workers to attend this week’s two playoff games. More than 6,000 workers entered their names in a lottery to win a ticket.
“A total shock,” Advanced Care Paramedic Mike McMillan said of one of the coveted conduits. “It was breathtaking. It’s a nice gesture for the past 16 months.”
Manitoba is subject to Code Red restrictions that ban public gatherings, but health ordinances have been changed for the games. Immediate family of Jets players, coaches and other staff could also watch the game inside the ice.
“I just felt like I could get back to a bit of normalcy,” said Terri Jeanson, clinical research laboratory technologist. “I know some people are upset about this, but it’s definitely worth what we’re doing.”
The Canadiens were the first NHL team in Canada to have a crowd this year, allowing 2,500 fans to watch Game 6 against the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday after Quebec eased restrictions.
The Leafs then covered the costs of 550 fully immunized healthcare workers to attend Game 7 against the Canadiens on Monday after receiving the go-ahead from Ontario.
The Winnipeg fans, who were given white shirts and hand towels, did not have a chance to wave the towels in joy early in the first period.
Kotkaniemi redirected a shot from Petry’s point for his fourth goal of the playoffs. Staal quickly increased the score to 2-0 with his first goal.
Winnipeg lost a player before and during the game.
Veteran Winnipeg center Paul Statsny (undisclosed) has not played. Defender Dylan DeMelo left the match early in the first and did not return due to a lower body injury.
Fans finally got a chance to jump from their spaced seats when Lowry scored shorthanded after the defenseman Erik Gustafsson returned the puck near the blue line. Lowry ran for the net and slipped a backhand shot under Price’s mat at 11:52.
Suzuki restored the two-goal lead to 5:14 pm in a 2-1 run with Edmundson.
Winnipeg led the visitors 11-9 in the scoreless second period, and 22-21 so far.
Forbort closed the lead to 3-2 at 9:22 of the third, but Gallagher rebounded from a Shea Weber breakaway on the power play at 11:04.
Before the game, hockey analysts wondered if the Jets should get rid of the rust.
It was Winnipeg’s first game since May 24, when it swept the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the North Division. Montreal wiped out a 3-1 deficit and eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 2, 2021.