Winnipegger scores goal that ends Jets Stanley Cup playoff run

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Winnipegger scores goal that ends Jets Stanley Cup playoff run

It was fun while it lasted.

After soaring for so long, the Winnipeg Jets finally ran out of fuel, ending their best-ever season on a four-game tailspin.

The Jets took the first game of the Western Conference final from the Vegas Golden Knights, but lost the next four straight — including Sunday afternoon's 2-1 defeat at home — and were sent packing 4-1 in the best-of-seven series.

The goal that ended the Jets season came off the stick of Winnipeg-born Ryan Reaves, son of Blue Bombers legendary running back Willard Reaves.

The second-period goal was Reaves's first of the playoffs and first as a Golden Knight. The 11-year NHL veteran, who played junior hockey with the Brandon Wheat Kings, was traded to the Knights by Pittsburgh in February.

"We call ourselves the Golden Misfits for a reason. I think we're doing a good job of proving everyone wrong," he said in a post-game interview.

The Jets had a power play opportunity to try and get the equalizer with four minutes left in the period but spent too much time passing, waiting for the perfect opening that never came, instead of directing some shots at the net.

Despite the Round 3 collapse, the Jets and their fans have a lot to celebrate after setting all sorts of franchise records.

No NHL squad from this Prairie city has ever gone as deep into the playoffs as this, created as much sensation as this across the country or raised as much hope.

And after a back-and-forth Round 2 series, the Jets knocked off the Nashville Predators — the No. 1 team in the NHL regular season.

Winning the series against Vegas would have given them the banner as Western Conference champions, but that will just have to wait until next year.

As for the Stanley Cup? Well, if the Hockey News prediction from three years ago holds up, that will be next year, too.


Not giving up

Prior to the game, you'd have been hard pressed to find a doubtful tone among the thousands of white-clad fans.

Outside, the street crowd chanted "We want the cup," while inside Bell MTS Place, fans brought homemade signs that said, "We still like our odds" and "We believe."

None of the fans seem ready to throw in all of those white towels they've been waving since the puck dropped on the team's first playoff game back on April 11.

"We've just so much enjoyed this season and the way the club has played, and I really think that with the support of the fans, they can do it. They can come back from 3-1 down and move on to the final," said Ron Zuke, who is originally from Manitoba but now lives in Airdrie, Alta.

He and his wife, Selene, made the trip to Winnipeg for Game 5 and made sure to rent a white car to make their way to the arena. With them, they carried the licence plates from their vehicles at home — Alberta plates that say NHL Jets and Jets Fan.

Selene said she was never a hockey fan before, but since watching the Jets, "now I'm hard core."

Lots of love

After the game, it was just as difficult to find a Jets fan who wasn't smiling and singing praises to their team.

"We're just proud of you, Jets, You brought this city together, closer than ever. We love you guys," said Roly Deblaere. "We're not sad. Next year we'll get 'em."

Mike Garson said he's disappointed the Jets' run came to an end "but I'm so proud of them. They got things exciting here in the community."

Asked what went wrong in the series, he summed it up in one word: "Fleury."

The Vegas goalie faced 161 shots in the series but only 10 got by him.

"We love the Jets so much, it's hard to take a loss like this," said Colin McDonald, who was at the game with his brother and nephew, all with white-painted faces and wigs.

He blamed some bad bounces and miscues for the Jets coming up short on Sunday but said the future of the team is bright with many young stars.

"It was fun to watch. I loved every minute of it," he said. "You go into the arena and you've got goose bumps for 2½ hours. It's pretty special."

'Stronger next year'

His brother, Andy, said he's heartbroken but "hopeful."

"It hurts today, it's very painful today. It's a dagger to the heart," he said. "But there's a lot of promise. "We're gonna lick our wounds and we're going to come back stronger next year."

Andy and his son, Anthony, made the trip to Winnipeg from Ottawa for Sunday's game. He lived in the city most of his life but moved away nine years ago.

Andy was at the final game of the original Jets in 1996, after which the team was then moved to Phoenix to become the Coyotes. He and Colin hung a banner that day, which said "End of an era."

On Sunday, they unfurled a replacement sign: A new era

"This signifies the promise that this team brings," Andy said.

Mike Clark, who came up from Vegas with a big group to watch their team advance to the Stanley Cup final, praised the city and the Jets, saying the hospitality of Winnipeggers "has been phenomenal."

"What a great series. It's unfortunate one had to lose," he said. "What an unbelievable story we've got going on. It's a miracle, I just can't believe it."