May 27th, 2024

Jets get good news on Dillon, look to rebound after ugly third period in Game 3 loss

By Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press on April 27, 2024.

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Brenden Dillon competes during an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars in Dallas, Thursday, April 11, 2024. Winnipeg Jets coach Rick Bowness says Dillon is "day to day" after suffering a hand injury in Game 3 against the Colorado Avalanche. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tony Gutierrez

DENVER – A handful of Colorado Avalanche players participated in an optional skate Saturday after an emphatic win over Winnipeg a day earlier.

The Jets went the opposite way, holding a full-team regular practice as they look to rebound from a third period and Game 3 loss they’d like to forget.

Colorado scored five times in the final stanza – including three goals over a six-minute stretch – for a 6-2 win and 2-1 series lead. The teams face off again Sunday afternoon at Ball Arena.

“We have these five-, six-, seven-minute lapses that are really slipping away from us,” said Jets defenceman Neal Pionk. “I think in a couple of games we’ve given up two, three goals in a five-minute span. So we’ve got to stick with it and the leaders have got to lead.”

Colorado’s big guns – anchored by superstar forward Nathan MacKinnon and all-world defenceman Cale Makar – have delivered in the first-round series. The Avalanche have outscored the Jets 17-11 and made Vezina Trophy favourite Connor Hellebuyck look average at times.

“l think your confidence should be high,” said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. “You’re winning some games. You’re playing hard. You’re playing well. But it’s still about focus and execution.”

After being held off the scoresheet in the first two games of the series, Winnipeg finally got some results from its second line of Tyler Toffoli, Sean Monahan and Nikolaj Ehlers on Friday night.

Toffoli and Josh Morrissey tallied over a decent 40-minute showing in the Jets’ first road game of the series. But the Avalanche took full control in the third period and didn’t let up to the delight of a raucous sellout crowd in the Mile High City.

“We’re playing hard,” Bednar said. “We’ve been competitive. We’re trying to tighten things up on the defensive side while staying dangerous on the other side of it.”

Avalanche netminder Alexandar Georgiev allowed seven goals in Game 1 but has been solid since. Fans chanted his name throughout Game 3 and gave the gears to Hellebuyck when Colorado started to pile on late in the game.

“Every game is going to be different in this series,” said Jets captain Adam Lowry. “We’re just going to look to bounce back. Kind of what Colorado did. We were able to get the upper hand in Game 1, they played really well in Game 2 and got the split.

“That’s our job now, to take care of business tomorrow.”

The Jets got some good news on defenceman Brenden Dillon, who was day to day after suffering a hand injury during a dust-up at the end of Game 3.

He appeared to suffer a deep cut to his left hand from a skate blade but there was no significant damage.

“It didn’t look good so it’s a big sigh of relief that there wasn’t any damage done,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness said. “Give our doctors credit. They got right at it and did a great job stitching him up.”

Bowness said he didn’t know how many stitches were required to close the gash. He also didn’t unveil any potential lineup adjustments for Game 4.

“He one of our toughest competitors, a tremendous teammate and he gives you 100 per cent every shift out there,” Bowness said of Dillon. “He’s tough as nails, he battles everybody, he blocks shots.

“I mean he does everything you want your veteran (defencemen) to do and he’s a great leader on the ice and in the room. He brings a lot to the table for us.”

The series will return to Canada Life Centre for Game 5 on Tuesday. If a sixth game is necessary, it will be played at Ball Arena on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2024.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on X.

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