Jets fly over Avalanche 7-6 in wild start to playoffs

Captain Adam Lowry and Kyle Connor each scored twice to propel the Winnipeg Jets to a 7-6 Game 1 first-round playoff victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.

Lowry, Connor each score twice in first game of championship run

A hockey player moves towards the net while surrounded by players in the other team.
Winnipeg Jets centre Adam Lowry scores on Colorado Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev during the second period. (The Canadian Press/Fred Greenslade)

Captain Adam Lowry and Kyle Connor each scored twice to propel the Winnipeg Jets to a 7-6 Game 1 first-round playoff victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday.

It was the first time the two teams have met in the NHL playoffs.

A sold-out crowd of 15,225 white-clad fans had plenty to cheer about at the "whiteout" parties inside and outside Canada Life Centre.

"He's been a great leader for the team on and off the ice. He was a great choice for captain," Jets head coach Rick Bowness said or Lowry.

"He loves these challenges. He's going up against one of the best players in the world, not necessarily the league, but the world in Nate [Nathan MacKinnon]. So, he loves those challenges and he takes his game to another level."

Mark Scheifele had a goal and two assists and Josh Morrissey registered a goal and assist. Vladislav Namestnikov also scored.

Brenden Dillon, Gabriel Vilardi and Nino Niederreiter each added a pair of assists and Connor picked up one helper.

Connor Hellebuyck made 39 saves for the Jets, who are on a nine-game win streak.

"That's our captain, man. He's a gamer," Jets defenceman Brenden Dillon said of Lowry. "The physicality, he plays against the top guys every night. Sometimes when it seems like our group doesn't have it, he's able to pull us into the fight."

A hockey player makes a swinging motion while falling, as the puck can be seen flying toward the net.
Vladislav Namestnikov scores. (The Canadian Press/Fred Greenslade)

Cale Makar had a goal and two assists for Colorado. Nathan MacKinnon and Artturi Lehkonen each notched a goal and one assist.

"Unfortunately, all the mistakes that we made ended up in the back of our net," Makar said. "That's just the way she goes sometimes. A couple things to clean up and then turn the page."

Valeri Nichushkin, Miles Wood and Casey Mittelstadt also scored. Mikko Rantanen chipped in two helpers.

Lowry said there will be some tweaks for Tuesday's Game 2 with linemates Niederreiter and Mason Appleton.

"We want to spend a little more time in their zone, wear them down in the cycle," Lowry said.

The Avalanche came into the series having lost all three regular-season games against Winnipeg.

Alexander Georgiev stopped 16 of the 23 shots he faced for Colorado, which is trying to repeat its 2022 Stanley
Cup-championship run. He was backed up by Arvid Holm instead of Justus Annunen, who wasn't at the morning skate.

Winnipeg finished three points ahead of Colorado in the Central Division, and the parity showed quickly.

Rows of people standing up at a hockey arena, all wearing white outfits.
Winnipeg Jets fans cheer after their team scored on the Colorado Avalanche during the second period. (The Canadian Press/Fred Greenslade)

The first period ended in a 3-3 tie, including the teams combining to score three goals in 66 seconds.

With an 10-1 lead in shots on goal, Nichushkin fired the puck high over Hellebuyck's blocker at 6:10 to give the visitors the 1-0 lead.

Morrissey tied it just under two minutes later when his point shot went through traffic past Georgiev.

The teams then combined for four goals in just under four minutes, including three in just over a minute.

Namestnikov got the shotfest started at 11:57 when his go-ahead goal had the crowd roaring.

Wood tied it at 14:47, MacKinnon scored at 15:05 for the 3-2 lead and then Scheifele evened it up at 15:53.

A hockey player raises his arms as a goaltender looks on from his net.
Mark Scheifele celebrates his goal during the first period in Game 1 of the series. (The Canadian Press/Fred Greenslade)

Wood's goal marked the 1,000th playoff goal for the Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques franchise.

Lowry got the only goal of the second period.

The Jets' captain went on a two-on-one with Mason Appleton, but didn't pass and shot the puck between Georgiev's pads to go ahead 4-3 at 8:57.

Lowry's second goal of the game had to be reviewed as the puck hit one post, went across and hit the other post and then slid along the goal line and hit the post again before bouncing out. It counted as crossing the line at 3:31.

Connor and Lehkonen exchanged power-play goals to make it 6-4 at 6:29, but Connor added his second marker just over two minutes later. Makar then scored an unassisted goal on the man advantage for the 7-5 score at 12:24.

Mittelstadt finished it off with a goal with 30 seconds remaining.

Scheifele's first-period goal was his 20th career playoff goal, scored in his 38th game.

Only three active players have reached that mark in fewer games.

Alex Ovechkin did it in 26 games, Jake Guentzel in 32 and Connor McDavid in 36 games.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Winnipeg.

Canucks prevail over Predators

The Vancouver Canucks mounted a third-period comeback to take Game 1 of their best-of-seven series against the Nashville Predators 4-2, thanks to two goals from forward Dakota Joshua. Nine years since the Canucks last hosted a Stanley Cup playoffs game, the Predators entered a deafening Rogers Arena.

Starting goaltender Thatcher Demko was a steadying presence to begin the game, but after the team failed to capitalize on an early power play, the Predators dug in and Jason Zucker gave Nashville the first goal of the series more than 15 minutes into the period.

The two teams traded chances in the third period before Pius Suter tipped in Canucks' captain Quinn Hughes' shot from the point to level up the game. And before the playmakers behind that goal were even announced in the arena, Joshua gave the Canucks their first lead of the playoffs with a goal in tight against goaltender Juuse Saros just 12 seconds later.

Panthers take opener against Lightning with 2 late goals

Carter Verhaeghe tapped in a pinpoint pass from Aleksander Barkov for the lead 58 seconds into the third period, Matthew Tkachuk added a goal and an assist, and the Florida Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 in Game 1 of their first-round NHL playoff series.

Barkov had two assists, Sam Reinhart also scored and Sergei Bobrovsky had 17 saves for the Panthers, who won a Game 1 on home ice for the first time since 1997.

Brandon Hagel and Steven Stamkos got the goals for Tampa Bay, which now trails Florida in a series for the first time. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 25 stops for the Lightning, who pulled him for an extra attacker with 3:08 remaining.

Rangers defeat Capitals 

Jimmy Vesey had a goal and an assist, Artemi Panarin also scored, and New York beat Washington in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Matt Rempe and Chris Kreider also scored, Barclay Goodrow had two assists and Igor Shesterkin finished with 20 saves to help the Presidents' Trophy-winning Rangers get the post-season off to strong start.

The Rangers, seeking their first Stanley Cup championship in 30 years, won their third straight and 11th in the last 14 games. New York's Peter Laviolette became the first coach in NHL history to take six different teams to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Martin Fehervary scored and Charlie Lindgren stopped 27 shots for the Capitals, who had won three straight and four of their last five games to earn the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference.

With files from CBC News