Minnesota was supposed to come out the three-day holiday break refreshed and ready to get back to the kind of hockey that had them successful in the early part of the season. With talk of trusting each other and holding everyone accountable, the Wild looked to start the last 50 games of the season on the right foot with a huge home and home series with the Winnipeg Jets.
It was a season-high sell-out crowd in St. Paul as a bunch of Jets fans made the trek in the Xcel Energy Center from Manitoba. The 19,177 in attendance was a solid mix of Forest Green and Royal Canadian Air Force Blue, and they were raucous from the beginning. If you haven't been to a game against the Jets, I highly recommend it. Jets fans are good people, loud, and willing to trash-talk all night.
Any ways, on to the game.
Minnesota got off to an odd start. They were playing pretty well defensively, but couldn't muster many shots on goal early. Ryan Carter was sent to the box for tripping Adam Pardy and a scrum ensued. Stu Bickel then fought Chris Thorburn in a really meaningless fight. Did you know that a penalty can be called if a player coming out of the box touches and plays the puck if he does not have both skates back on the ice? No? Well, you found that out tonight as Carter did exactly that and was sent right back into the sin bin after his tripping minor expired.
Mikael Granlund connected with Jason Pominville for a give-and-go that Granlund was able to finish through Michael Hutchinson's five-hole. The period ended with the shots attempts equal at 10 aside and the Wild up by one.
Prior to the game, it was announced the both Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom were ill so John Curry was getting the start in net for the Wild. John Curry has been good in Iowa this season, and if you look at how much he was missed in Iowa, they lost 9-2 to Grand Rapids.
Bryan Little got the only goal of the second period with a backhander he was able to get by Curry. Minnesota and Winnipeg traded shots back and forth for much of the second period. Zach Parise thought he tied the score after he deflected a shot that fluttered over Hutchinson and in the back of the net. However, the goal was immediately waved off for goalie interference. Parise's skate/stick caught Hutchinson's glove near the ice and thwarted his attempt to make the save. It was also called incidental contact and therefore no penalty was called on the play either.
Adam Lowry would give the Jets the lead early in the third after four players in Wild sweaters failed to take either the puck or the body. Lowry was the only person that got a diving whack at the puck to get it over Curry. With just under 10 minutes remaining in the game Pominville would unleash a hard slap shot that was an absolute snipe over Hutchinson's glove to tie the game. With a chance to re-gain the lead on a power play, Minnesota gave up a short-handed goal to former Golden Gopher Blake Wheeler on a 2-on-1. It was only the second shorty given up by the Wild this season and first since October 17th against the Anahiem Ducks. Luckily the Wild were still on the man-advantage and Jared Spurgeon would let go a hard slapper from the high slot. Thomas Vanek was able to somehow get his stick on the puck and get it in to the Jets goal. It was yet another clutch goal from the stick of the much-maligned Vanek.
This game, which was pretty even throughout as the teams matched goal for goal and shot for shot. It went to overtime with the Wild having a chance to take the extra point. It was a different overtime that the past few overtime periods from the Wild in which they seemed to disappear. No, this team got some good chances on Hutchinson, but it was Andrew Ladd that would secure the second point for the Jets on the worst kind of ending for the Wild. it was a shot the sailed high over the net, then bounced off the glass, landed on the top of the net and hit Curry in the back of the head, and into the net.
These two games against the Jets were circled as super important if the Wild were going to break out of this skid and keep its hopes alive for the post-season. At least they got a point.