The Winnipeg Jets had the slowest of slow starts, but Kyle Connor’s first goal in the second period, albeit in the preseason, stands as the game winner as the Wild falls to the Jets 4-1. Matt Dumba scored the lone goal for Minnesota on the power play with a blast from the point. The Wild are now 1-2 in the preseason.
Minnesota started seven players from last season’s roster in Erik Haula, Ryan Carter, Jordan Schroeder, defensemen Mike Reilly, Nate Prosser, Dumba, and goaltender Darcy Kuemper for the trip up to Winnipeg. Haula centered the top line that included Jordan Schroeder and Carter. The line was mostly inconsistent offensively. Schroeder had a couple chances when he fought through the Jets defense to get a stick on rolling pucks. Haula did show his speed off a couple times, but couldn’t turn it into clean looks at the net. Carter seemed like he was in the right spot a lot, just couldn’t find the handle of the puck. Defensively, Carter and Haula were good at 5v5 and controlled the majority of the shots.
Dumba was a wreck defensively. He was unable to cover the weak side on a Nikolaj Ehlers wrap-around goal. Granted, Wild starter Darcy Kuemper failed to meet at the other side as Ehlers went around the net, but Dumba was often puck watching. Nate Prosser had a glorious chance on a tic-tac-toe passing play that had a feed to the back door from Joel Eriksson Ek broken up at the last second. Prosser had some power play and penalty kill time, and those units weren’t totally successful.
The Wild came out like gangbusters in the game and dominated the first period to a tune of 17-5 shot attempts and a shot total of 11-5. Connor Hellebuyck, in net for the Jets, was absolutely superb while under siege early in the game. If he isn’t in the net a lot for the Jets this season, it should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. The period ended in a scoreless tie, but Minnesota had to feel good about its game.
In the second period, Dumba scored his power play goal to give the Wild a 1-0 lead. “He’s got a great shot from the point and he can skate,” coach Bruce Boudreau commented after the game. Clearly, he likes what Dumba brings offensively.
However, the lead was erased after Mathieu Perreault tapped home a loose puck in the goal crease. He could have lined that puck up like a golfer lining up a putt with the amount of time the puck sat in the blue paint. It was a much more even period in the second as 5v5 shot attempts leveled out 7-6 with the Wild having the slight advantage. Former Michigan Wolverine Kyle Connor got his first goal of his preseason career, after Mark Stuart threw a backhand pass to a wide open Connor for the goal. The Wild were caught puck watching and forgot to cover the player on the right lane. Dumba chase Stuart into the corner, while Prosser covered the Jets player in the center lane, and there was Connor, by his lonesome, available to receive a heck of a pass from Stuart.
Ehlers made it 3-1 just after the five minute mark of the third period. He was able to finish a wrap-around after beating Kuemper to the other side of the net.
Meanwhile, Kurtis Gabriel made a hard play for the puck and the contact got Perreault tangled up and had to leave the game. It was a benign play, but it caught the attention of the Jets and the officials. Later, Gabriel hit Ehlers along the near boards with a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. At first glance, it looked like Gabriel hit Ehlers without the puck, and being late in a 3-1 game, looked like it was an intentional run at a skilled players. On replay, the hit looked a lot more tame. However, Ehlers went down with a supposed injury and the Jets took exception to the hit. Gabriel was assessed a two minute minor for roughing, a five minute major for boarding, and a game misconduct. “Quite frankly, I didn’t think the hit was that bad,” Boudreau said after game. Gabriel, a player looking to make the roster this season, known for his physicality, has looked ok on the ice so far in the preseason. He is aggressive on the forecheck, never willing to back down from being challenged, but ultimately needs to improve his puck skills. The hit on a skilled player just had questionable timing in regards to when the puck was on Ehlers’ stick, and timing in regards to the time remaining in a 3-1 preseason game.
Drew Stafford had a goal waived off, but on replay, it was clear as day that the puck was in the net, and the final score could have been much worse in the Jets’ favor. But there is no review option in the exhibition season, and Stafford was robbed of a goal.
It didn’t matter much anyways when Andrew Copp scored at 18:16 of the third to ice the game.
There were some positives, in that the team controlled play in the first period. Negatively, all that pressure didn’t translate into goals, and the Wild let the Jets take the game back, Hmm, this sounds awfully similar to many gamers from last season. Tonight’s team is still very young and the regulars have yet to play. It’s not time to panic. I repeat, IT IS NOT TIME TO PANIC or draw any real conclusions yet.
Wild play next on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota will host the Carolina Hurricanes, and this will be Eric Staal’s first chance to play Carolina as a member of the Wild.