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Alexandar Georgiev, Colorado Avalanche overwhelmed by Winnipeg Jets’ rush of goals in first game defeat

Winnipeg Jets’ Mark Scheifele (55) scores against Colorado Avalanche goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (40) during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Sunday April 21, 2024. (Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Colorado Avalanche did not reach Game Two of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs before goaltending became the dominant story line.

WINNIPEG — The Colorado Avalanche didn't reach Game 2 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs before goaltending became the main story.

Alexandar Georgiev let in seven goals on 23 shots, and a quick start by Colorado quickly disappeared under the weight of an onslaught of goals against in a 7-6 loss Sunday night at Canada Life Centre.

Adam Lowry and Kyle Connor both scored twice, with all four goals coming after a wild first period, to help the Winnipeg Jets secure Game 1 of this best-of-seven Western Conference opening-round series. Game 2 is here Tuesday night.

The Jets scored on their third shot on goal in the first period, second shot on goal in the second, and first shot on target in the third. Colorado's Artturi Lehkonen reduced Winnipeg's lead to 6-4 early in the third period, and the Avalanche had the most comeback wins in the NHL during the regular season. The Jets replied on their second shot after Lehkonen's goal.

Georgiev had allowed four or more goals six times in his final eight appearances in the regular season, but Avs coach Jared Bednar never hesitated on who his starter for Game 1 would be.

The other choice, backup Justus Annunen, did not dress for Game 1 due to an illness, according to a team official. Arvid Holm, who has no NHL experience, dressed as the backup.

Colorado scored six times on the presumed Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goaltender this season, and it didn't matter. Cale Makar had a goal and two assists for the Avalanche.

Lowry gave the Jets the lead with the only goal of the second period. Brendan Dillon intercepted a pass in the Winnipeg zone and sent it towards the right point. Nino Niederreiter, despite not having a stick, managed to obstruct Cale Makar enough for the puck to get out.

Lowry picked it up in the neutral zone and had a 2-on-1 opportunity. Colorado's Devon Toews took away his passing option, but Lowry slid the puck through Georgiev's legs along the ice for Winnipeg's fourth goal in just 10 shots to that point, 8:57 into the middle period.

The second period saw a lot of physical play, but looked more like what everyone might have expected. This came after a wild, chaotic opening period that featured six goals, including three in 66 seconds.

Lowry made it 5-3 on Winnipeg's first shot of the third period at 3:31. The puck hit the left post, the right post, and then just managed to cross the line on the way back. It was initially ruled no goal, but a brief review overturned it.

The Jets got a fortunate call on a questionable penalty, and scored again at 5:51. Connor scored the first of his two third-period goals with a one-timer from the right circle.

The Avs had an extremely quick start, controlling play for most of the first eight minutes. Colorado had 11 of the first 12 shots on goal, and Valeri Nichushkin beat Hellebuyck with shot number 11.

The Jets attempted to clear the puck out of danger and make a line change, but Josh Manson surprised them with a quick pass to Nichushkin, who fired a wrist shot past Hellebuyck at 6:10.

Josh Morrissey tied the game at 8:02 with a shot from close to the blue line through traffic. This happened after Winnipeg's first sustained pressure in the offensive zone.

Manson made the first significant error for the Avs a few minutes later, and Winnipeg quickly took the lead. Alex Iafallo redirected his outlet pass from the corner to the right of Georgiev. It rolled into the slot, right to Vladislav Namestnikov and he scored into the top-right corner at 11:57.

Colorado scored goals on consecutive shifts. Miles Wood scored near the Winnipeg net after Ross Colton caused a turnover. Eighteen seconds later, Nathan MacKinnon received a pass from Mikko Rantanen and tricked Hellebuyck with a shot from inside the left circle.

If the Avs had any intentions of getting comfortable with a lead, the Jets erased them in less than 50 seconds. Connor checked Mittelstadt behind the Avalanche net, and then Gabe Villardi passed through the crease to Mark Scheifele near the right post for a layup at 15:53.

At that point, the Avs had a goal from three different lines, had proven Hellebuyck was beatable and controlled play for much of the period. But the other dressing room had to feel a lot better about a 3-3 score after 20 minutes.

Canada Life Centre was certainly prepared for the start of the playoffs. Winnipeg’s famous Whiteout did not disappoint, both inside the arena and the thousands who watched from the party outside. The Avs’ fast start quieted them for a while, but the busy first 20 minutes excited the crowd.

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