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Third period meltdown dooms Winnipeg Jets in 6-2 game 3 loss in Colorado

If the Winnipeg Jets want to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they’ve got a lot of work to do.

Winnipeg allowed five goals in the third period in a 6-2 loss in Colorado Friday night to fall behind 2-1 to the Avalanche in their best-of-seven series.

For the second straight game the Jets let a lead slip away and they spent a good chunk of the third period in the penalty box. The Avs scored five unanswered goals after closing out Game 2 with four straight markers.

“I think we can still do a better job managing the puck in their zone,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “As soon as we take a shot and there’s a loose puck they’re getting and they’re gone. So, I think we can tighten that up. That’s an area we’ll look at. And clearly the discipline in the third period and the penalty kill just took us out of the game.”

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The Jets took 10 minutes in penalties in the first 11 minutes of the third period and the Avalanche made them pay by notching a pair of power play markers. The Avs scored three goals in the span of just six minutes for the second game in a row.

Colorado had a one goal lead after the first, and the Jets scored back-to-back goals to take the lead, but the wheels completely came off in the final frame for Winnipeg.

“We can play better than that,” Bowness said. “There’s good parts of the game. The discipline and staying out of the box is gonna be a huge factor for us.”

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The Jets were outshot 12-5 in the third and 40-24 overall, but they made a strong push in the middle stanza to get a lead.

“We can take some real positives from that game, especially in the first two periods and it’s a seven-game series for a reason,” said defenceman Josh Morrissey. “We unfortunately dropped this one tonight but Game 4 is pivotal, and we need to come out here with our best game.”

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Brenden Dillon’s status is also now in question. He appeared to be cut on the hand or forearm by a skate during a post-game melee and left blood all over the ice.

“I can’t give you an update,” said Bowness. “I don’t have an update. He’s still being examined.

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“I’ll give you an update when I know more information.”

The Jets have never won a best-of-seven series when trailing two games to one.

Colorado got the crowd rocking at the 11:18 mark of the opening period when Zach Parise banged home a rebound off a Josh Manson net drive.

The Avalanche carried play for most of the opening period, though the Jets pushed hard in the final minute for the equalizer. It remained 1-0 after 20 minutes with Colorado leading 12-9 on the shot clock.

The Jets drew even just over five minutes into the second. After one of Winnipeg’s stronger shifts in the offensive zone, Tyler Toffoli was turned aside by Alexandar Georgiev and as the rebound drifted to the corner, Toffoli fired a second try from along the goal line and it squeaked through to make it 1-1.

Winnipeg earned the game’s first power play at the 9:15 mark when Casey Mittlestadt hooked Mark Scheifele, and the Jets made them pay. A blast off the stick of Morrissey beat Georgiev through a screen set by Gabriel Vilardi to put the Jets in front 2-1 with 9:10 to go in the second.

Colorado would get their own power play look a few minutes later but Connor Hellebuyck made several strong saves to keep it 2-1, which would remain the score after 40 minutes with the Avalanche outshooting Winnipeg 16-10 in the second.

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But the unravelling began early in the third for the Jets. Mason Appleton took a tripping penalty 1:14 into the final frame, leading to Nathan MacKinnon’s game-tying goal. He let a wrister go from the point and it found a way through a maze of bodies and through Hellebuyck’s five-hole.

23 seconds later, Vilardi cut Devon Toews with a high-stick, putting the Avalanche on a four-minute power play, but unlike game 2, the Jets couldn’t kill this one off.

Moments after the first half of the double-minor lapsed, Mikko Rantanen found Valeri Nichushkin with a cross-ice pass. Tired penalty killers couldn’t catch up to him, nor could a flailing Hellebuyck get in the way as Nichushkin buried it to put the Avs ahead at the 4:39 mark.

Colorado doubled their lead at the 8:11 mark after the Avs forced a turnover at their blueline. Mittlestadt picked up the puck in the neutral zone and sped ahead as Dylan DeMelo stumbled trying to backpedal. Mittlestadt carried the puck into the Jets’ zone and a tired Mark Scheifele couldn’t keep up as Artturi Lehkonen took a pass from Mittlestadt and knocked it home to make it 4-2.

Two more Jets penalties to David Gustafsson and Neal Pionk put the Avalanche on a brief 5-on-3 and while the Jets wound up killing off both, just one second after Pionk’s minor ended, Ross Colton redirected a pass into the net to make it 5-2 with 7:25 left.

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Winnipeg pulled the goalie to try and pull off a long-shot comeback but Toews scored into the empty net with 3:35 to go to put a bow on the win for the Avalanche, who scored five goals in a period in which the Jets only managed five shots.

Frustration boiled over for the Jets in the final minute as Adam Lowry got in a scrap with Miles Wood and after the final horn sounded, a skirmish broke out but it led to a scary moment when Dillon was badly cut, bolting to the bench as blood pooled on the ice.

Hellebuyck was saddled with the loss despite making 34 stops, while Georgiev gets the win after turning aside 22 shots.

The two teams will meet again Sunday afternoon in Denver. Game 4 begins at 1:30 p.m. with pregame coverage on 680 CJOB starting at 11 a.m.

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