The Jets will face an unfamiliar predicament when the puck drops Friday for Game 4 of the Western Conference Final at T-Mobile Arena.
It marks the first time Winnipeg has trailed in these playoffs after losing Game 3 of their best-of-seven series with the Golden Knights.
“There’s going to be some nerves there,” forward Adam Lowry conceded. “Nobody wants to go down or make a mistake that’s going to cost the team (falling behind) 3-1. But we’ve also talked about how our team’s not the same team when we’re worried about making mistakes or worried about the pressure. You see in the third period where we’re down by a couple of goals – you start playing a lot freer.
“But we’re just trying to embrace the moment and going out there to enjoy it. You’ve got to love competing at this time of year and at this stage. That’s what we’re going to try and do.”
Winnipeg is buoyed by the amount of pressure it put on the Knights throughout the third period of Game 3, but the brilliance of Marc-Andre Fleury minimized the damage and held the Jets at bay in a 4-2 victory.
“It’s the playoffs. Every game is a new challenge for us,” forward Paul Stastny said. “If we’re down 3-0 or up 3-0, it doesn’t matter for us. We know every game gets harder and harder, and that’s part of the playoffs. I think the coaches do a good job of sending the right message. Yesterday I think the guys were a little discouraged. Today is a new day, and guys are feeling a little better.”
The Knights seized control of the series by generating turnovers and immediately turning them into offensive opportunities.
Forward Jonathan Marchessault has been the primary beneficiary, breaking free of Jets defenders and rarely missing the net.
Coach Paul Maurice knows the Jets must clean up some sloppiness in the neutral zone, as well as a puck-handling mistake made by goaltender Connor Hellebuyck behind the net. The Jets jumped out to a series lead by winning Game 1 on a night the Golden Knights only got one takeaway.
Maurice doesn’t want to overreact. He does think the first period takes on added importance, however.
“We’re all aware that we’re down 2-1, but it’s still fairly early in the series,” he said. “Both teams are going to come out guns ablazing and try to give the other team nothing. That’s what the approach has been (for) both (teams). They’ve gotten off to two quick starts, and we got off to one quick start. So, it will be a dogfight for the first 20 (minutes).”
If the Jets do come out of the locker room strong, it probably won’t be due to a big emotional speech.
“You don’t really say much,” defenseman Dustin Byfuglien said. “You just make sure the team is ready to go next game to get our position back in the series and stay strong.’’
Lowry knows words aren’t nearly as important as trusting the system that got the Jets to this point.
“We have a lot of belief in our group,” he said. “You look at the depth of our team, and it seems like a lot of different guys step up at different times. For whatever reason we haven’t been able to go on these long losing streaks. We’ve been able to stop them. You look at the games we’ve played, obviously, we didn’t like our start last night. You look at the third period, that’s more the template of how our team needs to play to be successful.”
The Jets had 16 shots on goal in each of periods two and three after mustering three in the first period on Wednesday. They will want to get started sooner than that Friday.