The hometown Winnipeg Whiteout fans had barely settled into their seats at Bell MTS Centre for Thursday’s game when Adam Lowry brought them back to their feet in wild celebration.
Only 12 seconds had ticked off the clock when the Winnipeg Jets forward one-timed a fat, juicy rebound graciously served up to him on a platter by goaltender Jordan Binnington and the puck found the back of the net.
The Jets were pumped by the fast start but it was the St. Louis Blues who had the more important strong finish, scoring three times in the third period to stun the Jets 3-2.
The Jets carried a 2-0 lead into the third where St. Louis’s Ryan O’Reilly finally solved Winnipeg goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, snapping home a shot from in close while on the power play at the 1:29 mark to tighten the collars of the home side.
The Blues then tied it when Brayden Schenn backhanded a shot past Hellebuyck at 13:52 as the Winnipeg net was being jostled off its supports.
The winner was provided by Jaden Schwartz, who redirected a centring pass from Tyler Bozak from the corner past Hellebuyck with just 15 seconds left to silence the crowd.
With the victory, the Blues continued the series trend of all the wins being secured by the visiting team as they grabbed a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven NHL Western Conference playoff series.
Kevin Hayes had the Jets other goal.
Game 6 is scheduled for Saturday night in St. Louis.
The Jets came into the contest riding the high of two big victories on St. Louis ice, including a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory on Tuesday that knotted the series at 2-2.
St. Louis coach Craig Berube said he did not get the sense that his players were in any way deflated by the two straight setbacks at home.
“They’re fine,” he said before the game. “The mindset is fine. I think they’ve done a good job of game to game and letting it go.
“You've obviously got to make adjustments and move on from the last game. We do that, then we let it go and move on to the next game. Mentally they're fine.”
And what’s a hockey playoff without a little puck controversy.
Some Jets supporters on social media were outraged after learning that Kyle Connor was not able to retrieve the puck that he shot to score the overtime winner in Tuesday’s 2-1 win as a keepsake.
Binnington is seen retrieving the puck out of the net as the Jets celebrated the score, but the Blues goalie insists he dropped it on the ice before heading off.
The zany capacity gathering at Bell MTS Place was, as usual, loud and boisterous and almost entirely outfitted in white. It was difficult to differentiate the ice surface from the stands.
After joining the anthem singer for a hearty rendition of O Canada, the Whiteout fellowship were quickly back in fine voice courtesy of Lowry’s sudden goal.
After the opening faceoff, the Jets quickly fed the puck into the corner of the Blues end. Winnipeg’s Brandon Tanev found the puck and centred it out front where Binnington kicked it right out to Lowry in the slot and he quickly snapped it in.
Only a dozen seconds in and the Jets were already leading 1-0.
Hayes then fuelled the elation when he made the score 2-0 at the 13:35 mark. Hayes powered in from the right side and then rammed the puck past a sprawled Binnington, who must have been decrying where his defence had gone.
The Blues had a couple of good chances themselves, none better than Oskar Sundqvist, who was thwarted by Hellebuyck on a breakaway.
Neither team found the net in the second period where the Jets held a wide margin in scoring chances, especially Hayes who was a constant threat.
On one play, Hayes deflected a shot in front of Binnington and the puck slid slowly between the goalie’s legs and might not have had enough gas to cross the goal line. Incredibly, as Hayes tried to jab at the puck to hurry it on its travels, he knocked it out of the crease.