But that's hardly enough to damped the mood in the 'Peg. For now it's still the honeymoon. But when the joy of the pregame celebrations wore off, it was clear that this is still the Thrashers team that only made the playoffs once in franchise history. There will be more growing pains. But these will be the most pleasant pains I think any fan base has ever gone through.
The game was particularly tough on Jets defenseman Johnny Oduya. There's no doubt that he gets the status as the goat for the first game back in Manitoba. He turned the puck over not once but twice in his own defensive zone, leading to the Habs' first two goals of the night.
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Again, though, that was an afterthought. The Canadiens could have won 17-1, the fans would have loved every second of it. The place got especially buzzing after Nik Antropov put himself in Winnipeg lore by scoring the first goal for the "new" Jets. For a minutes after, it was as good as it got all game. The Jets were buzzing, the electricity was back in the building and hit a high after Winnipeg's Mark Stuart lit up Canadiens captain Brian Gionta.
On Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, there were plenty of thanks being given. Get this: Commissioner Gary Bettman, who once ripped a franchise away from the 'Peg and shipped it to Phoenix, wasn't even booed.
"It wasn't personal then and while frankly I'm happy to have been a part of the equation that restored the team, the credit goes to the people in Winnipeg without whom this wouldn't be happening," Bettman said.
They were raucous before the game began. The only thing that could quiet the crowd was a touching tribute to the late Rick Rypien, who played with the Manitoba Moose and signed with the Jets in the offseason before committing suicide this summer. His mother came onto the ice to drop the ceremonial first puck. The emotion was oozing from the arena.
After that it was mostly all joy. However you couldn't help but feel for the fans back in Atlanta.
That, of course, is the byproduct here, that fans of the Thrashers -- and there were fans of the Thrashers -- are left in the dark. If they had the stomach to watch the game, it had to be gut-wrenching. Jets fans know the feeling, though, and can empathize. It's just that now that's over, and "Go Jets Go" chants fill the arena once again.
They were so appreciative in Winnipeg for this game and the return of hockey, every soul stayed in their seats and gave a standing ovation for the final minute. Of a 5-1 loss.
The official three Stars of the night were listed as Tomas Plekanec, Carey Price and Antropov. But if you polled everybody in the arena on Sunday, the obvious answer for the first star is Mark Chipman, the man most responsible for bringing the NHL back to Winnipeg.
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