Blake Wheeler wants the Winnipeg Jets to keep believing in what they’ve been doing even though they’re on the brink of elimination after a 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 3 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Second Round on Sunday.
“You can’t reinvent the wheel tonight,” the Jets captain said. “You can’t start over and try to do something completely different. I think there’s some things in our game that we really like, some things we can clean up certainly, and hopefully we get a bounce to go our way. Hopefully one goes off of one of their sticks and ricochets into the net, and we’ll take a lead and see how it looks from there. But, outside of that, you can’t doubt the process.”
Game 4 is at Montreal on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN).
Teams that trail 3-0 are 4-194 (.020) winning a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series, including 0-2 in the first round this season.
Wheeler said he believes playing back-to-back games is a good thing with the predicament facing the Jets.
“Having to sit in a hotel room all day tomorrow and stew on that one, you would have a lot of guys burning inside,” Wheeler said. “So it’s nice to get right back at it tomorrow. Hopefully we get a good feeling in our room and start to rebuild ourselves. We’ve got to win a hockey game. No different than it was today. We’ve got to win one game, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said they know all about what one win can spark. Montreal trailed the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 in the Stanley Cup First Round before rallying to win the series with three straight victories, including the first two in overtime.
“We know how difficult this is going to be,” Gallagher said. “It’s always difficult to put a team away. We were obviously on the other side of it last series. As soon as you get a sliver of hope, the momentum starts to build.”
All of the momentum is with the Canadiens. Winnipeg has not held a lead in the series, and Montreal’s streak of 376:14 not trailing, dating to the start of Game 5 against Toronto, is the fifth-longest in NHL playoff history.
The Jets thought they were on to something in the second period in Game 3.
But Wheeler hit the crossbar at 8:38, after teammate Nikolaj Ehlers did the same at 4:55, and Artturi Lehkonen scored at 9:24 to put the Canadiens ahead 2-0.
“You can control big chunks of the game, like I think we did in the second period there for a little while, and instead of it having it be a tie hockey game or pulling ahead or what have you, they come down the ice and score a goal,” Wheeler said. “It’s hard to keep building yourself up and keep building yourself up when the things that you’re doing that were giving you success, you’re not rewarded for, and then it seems like any little mistakes, you’re paying for.
“I was dead certain that [my shot] went in. I thought it hit the back bar or the goalie camera, the camera in the net. It felt like I scored, it’s a 1-1 hockey game, and it kind of changes the complexion of things.”
NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger contributed to this report