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Jets, Avs goalies reset after wild Winnipeg win in series opener

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WINNIPEG -

Connor Hellebuyck made sure he did one important thing while winding down Sunday after the Winnipeg Jets beat the Colorado Avalanche 7-6 in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

The favourite to win this season's Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie made sure his recovery included replenishing his fluids.

"That was probably one of the most sweatiest games I've played in this league," Hellebuyck said before skipping the team's Monday optional skate at Canada Life Centre ahead of Game 2 on Tuesday.

"So there's a few extra things I had to do. But for the most part, it was just slowly winding down and watching highlights or some other games, see what's going on around the league and just relaxing."

Hellebuyck didn't have much time to relax in the first game of the Western Conference best-of-seven series. He faced 46 shots, compared to Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev's 23.

The teams combined for six goals in the first period and six in the third. It's the second game in Stanley Cup playoff history to feature two teams combining for at least six goals in multiple periods.

Hellebuyck said he tried to stay on an even keel after the frenzy of the opening period.

Colorado was outshooting the Jets 10-1 before Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin fired the puck over the goalie's blocker at 6:10 to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

"I've been in this league long enough it's going to be, 'I need to stop one more than the other guy.' I turn my mindset to that," Hellebuyck said.

"Our offence was buzzing, we scored seven. That's an incredible feeling and our crowd was absolutely insane. What more could you ask for out of a playoff hockey game?"

Georgiev was brief after the game when analyzing how he had played.

"(The Jets) scored some really good goals, a couple lucky ones," he said. "You have to stay positive and try to find out what happened today and move forward. It's only 1-0 in the series so I'm looking forward to the next game."

Winnipeg's seven goals tied a franchise playoff record for most in a game.

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said postgame that Georgiev's performance "probably needed to be better."

On Monday, the coach said Georgiev and his teammates need a bounce-back mindset for Game 2.

"It's going to be about mental toughness, right? Not just for him, for our group," Bednar said. "As positive as I'm going to be up here and sitting up here, we didn't win the hockey game. But you have to be able to reset."

Avalanche backup netminder Justus Annunen missed Sunday's game because he was ill. He was still sick on Monday and wasn't at the rink.

Arvid Holm, who's never played an NHL game, backed up Georgiev. The Swedish netminder got into 12 games this season with the American Hockey League's Colorado Eagles. He played two seasons with Winnipeg's AHL Manitoba Moose affiliate (2021-23). The Jets drafted him in 2017 (167th overall).

Hellebuyck claimed the Vezina in 2020 and was a finalist last year and in 2018.

He played 60 games this past regular season, registering a 37-19-4 record, 2.39 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.

Avalanche forward Zach Parise is very familiar with Hellebuyck's skills over the course of his 19-season NHL career. He spent nine seasons with Minnesota, including 2017-18 when Hellebuyck and the Jets bounced the Wild out of the playoffs in five games of the opening round.

"From the numbers that (Hellebuyck has) put up this year, he had a great season," Parise said Monday. "We knew going into the series that will be a great challenge."

The approach to beating him is the same as with other goalies in the league, added Parise, who confirmed this month he was retiring after the playoffs.

"As far as rattling (Hellebuyck), you just try to get bodies around there and traffic and make him uncomfortable," he said.

BOTH SIDES LIKED THE "WHITEOUT"

Forward Tyler Toffoli joined the Jets at the trade deadline from the New Jersey Devils and experienced his first Winnipeg playoff game Sunday, with its white-clad, roaring sold-out crowd and thousands of similar fans partying outside.

He even looked up at the video scoreboard at the start of the game and saw two fighter jets flying over Winnipeg's downtown.

"With the planes flying over, I didn't think it was actually real. I thought it was a video, you know?" Toffoli said. "That was sweet. So, hopefully we can keep the energy up and get a couple more wins."

Bednar also soaked up the atmosphere from the visitors' bench.

"I hadn't been in a playoff atmosphere here yet and that's as good as it gets," Bednar said. "It's a whiteout, the fans are chanting and going crazy and you can feel the energy on the bench.

"It gave me goosebumps as a coach and I think the players were all feeling the same thing and it just forces you to bring your best."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2024.

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