Lowry, Connor propel Jets to 7-6 playoff win over Avalanche

WINNIPEG — Adam Lowry demonstrated why he was the right choice to be the Winnipeg Jets captain on Sunday night.

Lowry and Kyle Connor each scored twice to propel the Jets to a 7-6 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of their first-round, best-of-seven playoff series.

“He’s been a great leader for the team on and off the ice. He was a great choice for captain,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness said.

“He loves these challenges. He’s going up against one of the best players in the world, not necessarily the league, but the world in Nate (Nathan MacKinnon). So, he loves those challenges and he takes his game to another level.”

MacKinnon, who had a goal and one assist, was second in league scoring with 140 points during the regular season.

“That’s our captain, man. He’s a gamer,” Jets defenceman Brenden Dillon said of Lowry. “The physicality, he plays against the top guys every night. Sometimes when it seems like our group doesn’t have it, he’s able to pull us into the fight.”

A sold-out crowd of 15,225 white-clad fans had plenty to cheer about at the “whiteout” parties inside and outside Canada Life Centre.

Mark Scheifele had a goal and two assists and Josh Morrissey registered a goal and assist. Vladislav Namestnikov also scored. Dillon, Gabriel Vilardi and Nino Niederreiter each added a pair of assists and Connor picked up one helper.

There were 100 hits in the game, with the Avalanche having a 54-46 edge.

Lowry said there will be some tweaks for Tuesday’s Game 2 with linemates Niederreiter and Mason Appleton.

“We want to spend a little more time in their zone, wear them down in the cycle,” Lowry said.

Connor Hellebuyck made 40 saves for the Jets, who are on a nine-game win streak.

Cale Makar had a goal and two assists for Colorado. Artturi Lehkonen notched a goal and one assist. Valeri Nichushkin, Miles Wood and Casey Mittelstadt also scored. Mikko Rantanen chipped in with two helpers.

“Unfortunately, all the mistakes that we made ended up in the back of our net,” Makar said. “That’s just the way she goes sometimes. A couple things to clean up and then turn the page.”

Alexander Georgiev stopped 16 of the 23 shots he faced for Colorado, which is trying to repeat its 2022 Stanley Cup-championship run. He was backed up by Arvid Holm instead of Justus Annunen, who wasn’t at the morning skate.

It was the first time the two teams have met in the NHL playoffs.

The Avalanche came into the series having lost all three regular-season games against Winnipeg.

“We played extremely hard,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said. “We did a lot of good things. You don’t get six (goals) on the Jets without doing that.

“We also made some mistakes that they capitalized on. Too many, obviously tonight, and it ends up costing us the hockey game.”

Bednar said he wasn’t going to speculate on if he’d make a change in net for Game 2.

“It probably needed to be better, right?” he said of Georgiev’s performance.

Winnipeg finished three points ahead of Colorado in the Central Division, and the parity showed quickly.

The first period ended in a 3-3 tie, including the teams combining to score three goals in 66 seconds.

“It’s not the way we drew it up, a 7-6 game, but sometimes you’ve just got to play that game that’s in front of you,” Connor said. “It turned into a bit of a track meet there and we know we’ve got to be better.”

With a 10-1 lead in shots on goal, Nichushkin fired the puck high over Hellebuyck’s blocker at 6:10 to give the visitors the 1-0 lead.

Morrissey tied it just under two minutes later when his point shot went through traffic past Georgiev.

The teams then combined for four goals in just under four minutes, including three in just over a minute.

Namestnikov got the offensive fireworks started at 11:57 when his go-ahead goal had the crowd roaring.

Wood tied it at 14:47, MacKinnon scored at 15:05 for the 3-2 lead and then Scheifele evened it up at 15:53.

Wood’s goal marked the 1,000th playoff goal for the Avalanche-Quebec Nordiques franchise.

Lowry got the only goal of the second period to go ahead 4-3 at 8:57.

His second goal of the game had to be reviewed as the puck hit one post, went across and hit the other post and then slid along the goal line and hit the post again before bouncing out. It counted as crossing the line at 3:31.

Connor and Lehkonen exchanged power-play goals to make it 6-4 at 6:29, but Connor added his second marker just over two minutes later. Makar then scored an unassisted goal on the man advantage for the 7-5 score at 12:24. Mittelstadt finished it off with a goal with 30 seconds remaining.


Mark Scheifele’s first-period goal was his 20th career playoff goal, scored in his 38th game.

Only three active players have reached that mark in fewer games. Alex Ovechkin did it in 26 games, Jake Guentzel in 32 and Connor McDavid in 36 games.


Game 2 is Tuesday night in Winnipeg.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2024.

Judy Owen, The Canadian Press