Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine (R) is congratulated by teammate Bryan Little after scoring a goal in the second period against the St. Louis Blues on December 3, 2016 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Nobody needs to tell Winnipeg Jets fans what happened the last time their team had a 3-1 lead in a playoff series.
After Dave Ellett scored in double overtime in Game 4 of their first-round matchup against the Edmonton Oilers in 1990, the Jets went on to lose three consecutive games, continuing their decade-long heartbreak against their hated rival.
The other time the Jets were up 3-1 in the postseason, against the Vancouver Canucks in 1992, they promptly went on a three-game losing streak, too.
In fact, you have to go back to Winnipeg's days in the World Hockey Association to find a killer instinct.
During the 1978-79 season, the Jets, led by super Swedes Kent Nilsson and Lars-Erik Sjoberg as well as Terry Ruskowski, took a 3-1 lead against 18-year-old Wayne Gretzky and the Oilers. They lost Game 5 on the road but locked up their third AVCO Cup championship in four years in Game 6 with a 7-3 victory.
If the Jets are to exorcise some demons Friday night against the Minnesota Wild at Bell MTS Place, they're going to have to do it without defenseman Josh Morrissey, who was suspended one game for a vicious cross-check to the face of Wild forward Eric Staal during the Jets' 2-0 victory Tuesday night.
When you factor in the absence of Toby Enstrom, who has been out for several weeks with a bad ankle; Dmitri Kulikov, who had back surgery in March; and Tyler Myers, who was hurt in Game 3, three of the Jets' top four rearguards are expected to be out for this all-important game.
"It doesn't really cross my mind," Bryan Little told The Winnipeg Sun after practice Thursday. "It's going to take a lot more for us to get nervous about that."
Staal told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he wasn't spending any time worrying that Morrissey didn't receive a longer suspension.
"It doesn't matter," he said after Thursday's practice at Xcel Energy Center. "Regardless of what [the NHL] decided, it wouldn't have made a difference. I'm worried about trying to help our team win the game up there and take [the series] home. That's all I'm focused on."
The Jets recalled defenseman Sami Niku from the Manitoba Moose, mere hours after dipping into their farm club for fellow defenseman Tucker Poolman. The young Finn made his NHL debut two weeks ago, scoring his first goal against the Montreal Canadiens.
The Wild will continue to be without two of their best players, too -- defenseman Ryan Suter, who broke an ankle April 2, and forward Zach Parise, who is out long term with a broken sternum.
Ryan Murphy will step in on the Wild blue line for Carson Soucy and play his first NHL postseason game. He told the Star Tribune that he sees a pattern.
"I actually made my NHL debut against the Winnipeg Jets, too, and my Minnesota debut against the Jets," he said. "So it's Winnipeg all the time."