On Halloween night in St. Paul, the Jets came into the Xcel Energy Center ready to go from the opening face-off, the Wild, not so much. Lethargic play for the first 41 minutes put the Wild into a 2-0 hole that could have been much deeper. The Wild did eventually come alive in the 3rd with a goal by Luke Kunin, but Connor Hellebuyck delivered a composed and effective performance to hold off a late flurry from the Wild, giving the Jets a 2-1 victory. Tonight the Jets walked away with the full-size Milky Way, and the Wild were left with a box of raisins.
The mistakes for the Wild started early. Just 39 seconds in, Jared Spurgeon was called for tripping and put the Wild on the penalty kill early. Nikolaj Ehlers then appeared to score, but the goal was waved off for being directed in off his hand. On replay it looked like the Wild caught a bit of a break and it remained scoreless, but not for long. Just past the seven minute mark, Kyle Connor scored a goal off a Scheifele deflection to give the Jets a 1-0 lead. The Wild showed no signs of life in the first until they got their first Power Play almost 8 minutes in. Until then they hadn't registered a single shot to Winnipeg's 7. Their first Power Play yielded some quality chances despite no goals, and actually seemed to give the Wild a bit of a spark. They were able to even the shots up coming out of the first. Alex Stalock was in goal and did an admirable job keeping the Wild in the game, including turning away a scary scoring chance by Wheeler late in the first.
Unfortunately, whatever momentum the Wild built in the first period went away in the second. Wild skaters looked out of sync and the Jets were having their way in the neutral zone. In a Wild-Jets match up that is typically skill vs. strength, the Jets looked like they had the upper hand in both in the 2nd. Matt Dumba in particular had a night he'd like to forget, giving up the puck to Mark Scheifele twice in consecutive possessions. More on Dumba later. Despite having the upper-hand the Jets did not play a disciplined game, giving the Wild 5 chances on power play. Unfortunately the Wild's woes continue in that category and they went 0/5 on the night. The player with the best scoring opportunity on the Wild's final power play was Blake Wheeler, who just missed on a shorthanded breakaway. Yikes. The second period ended on a very chippy note. Marcus Foligno hit Patrik Laine hard against the boards. Laine retaliated with a two handed slash at the back of Foligno's legs and Foligno went down. After a scuffle, both players went to the box, Laine for slashing and Foligno for embellishment. Watching the replay it didn't look like the type of hit Foligno would have to fake pain for. That call compelled the fans to vocalize their Halloween spirit with the refs at the end of the period. You could argue the Wild's performance until that point had an impact on that too.
Despite the poor play, the Wild headed into the third down by just one goal, and it felt like the Jets had left the window open for them to steal it back. All it would take was a good third period performance, and for 19 minutes, the Wild provided that. Unfortunately in 4-on-4 to start the third, Matt Dumba made the most costly error of the night. In the Wild's zone, he tried a behind-the-back pass to Granlund that was too weak. Ehlers swooped in to intercept it, outmaneuvered Granlund, and beat Stalock to put the Jets up 2-0. From then on Matt Dumba was rarely on the ice, capping off a night he'd probably like to forget. Boudreau shuffled the lines, and it finally seemed to get the Wild to come alive. Finally they were getting some good time in the offensive zone. At 5:36 in the third, Nino Niederreiter fed a beautiful centering pass to Luke Kunin who slammed it past Hellebuyck for his second goal of the year, making it 2-1. The last 8 minutes of the game the Wild finally looked to be operating at 100%, unleashing a frenzy of shots. However, it proved to be too little too late, as Connor Hellebuyck stood strong stopping 28/29 shots on the night.
Silver linings for the Wild were the return of Nino Nederrider and a solid performance by Luke Kunin, who had a solid game and saw some time on special teams. Alex Stalock performed well despite the loss.
The Wild look to bounce back from this performance tomorrow night against the Montreal Canadiens.
I leave you with an underrated Halloween promo from FSN and Anoka's Lyric Arts from a couple years ago. Perhaps this could be alternative therapy if the Wild's play continues to be lifeless: