Winnipeg hockey fans had waited 19 long years to see their own NHL team score a playoff goal at home, and when Lee Stempniak buried a tally midway through the first frame, the MTS Centre exploded with one of the loudest cheers you’ll ever hear.
The MTS Centre, the Winnipeg Jets’ home arena, is located four blocks from the city’s main intersection at Portage and Main. That said, there’s no doubt pedestrians passing through the heart of downtown Winnipeg heard the building erupt when Lee Stempniak scored the franchise’s first post-season home goal since the club relocated to Winnipeg.
In the first frame, the Jets broke away on an odd-man rush thanks to defenseman Jacob Trouba jumping into the play. Trouba made a beautiful toe-drag around an Anaheim defender before firing a wristshot on goal that Adam Lowry batted without looking back towards the goal. Stempniak, who was coming in from the left wing, was right there to bang the puck into the wide-open cage. And then, bedlam:
Stempniak’s goal was his first point of the playoffs and his 11th point in 20 games since coming over to the Jets at the trade deadline. Stempniak has made a huge impact in Winnipeg since being acquired from the New York Rangers in exchange for Carl Klingberg.
While the Phoenix Coyotes, the former, original Jets, and the Atlanta Thrashers, the club that was relocated to become the present-day Jets, have scored post-season goals in the last 19 years, it’s safe to say none have been met with quite a raucous reaction. The same can certainly be said about either of Stempniak’s other two career post-season tallies.