The Minnesota Wild got three points in the first period by Mikael Granlund, goals by Ryan White and Tyler Graovac, a multi-point night for Martin Hanzal, and it still came down to the wire in a truly wild one at MTS Center in Winnipeg. Jason Zucker’s 20th goal of the season just before time expired on a Nino Niederreiter penalty was the game-winning goal in a game the Wild gave up a three goal lead, only to win 6-5 in regulation.
Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Wild gave up the early lead as they tried to find their legs early. Jets rookie star Patrick Laine scored just 1:02 into the game as his one-timer from the slot beat Wild starter Darcy Kuemper.
It was Kuemper’s first start since February 16th in which he beat the Dallas Stars in a 34 save effort. Take in the long break in between games and the five day bye-week, and Patrick Laine’s shot probably looks like Alex Ovechkin’s.
With Minnesota looking to create room through the neutral zone, Mikko Koivu found Granlund behind Tobias Enstrom with a nice pass to spring him for a break. It might not have been nearly as pretty as the Granlund overtime winner the night before, but he made a strong move to his forehand and went bar down over Connor Hellebuyck’s blocker.
Granlund wasn’t done. Later in the period, Hanzal found Granlund near the blue paint of the goal crease and fed him a pass. Granlund, now on his knees getting handled by Dustin Byfuglien, sent a pass across the crease where Tyler Graovac had a yawning net to deposit the puck. Then, Granlund would find himself on the score sheet yet again when he carried the puck into the Jets’ zone on a break, froze the defenseman and fed Erik Haula a pass on the wing. Haula almost screwed this one up, but he was able to corral the biscuit from his skates and banked one on off Hellebuyck.
Minnesota took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. However, they’d be without their rock on defense. Ryan Suter was checked hard by Paul Postma into the end boards. Postma would get a five minute major for boarding as the assistant captain of the Wild needed assistance back to the bench. He wouldn’t return to the game. Head Coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn’t divulge the details of Suter’s apparent injury other than characterizing it as a “body injury.”
Marco Scandella, who needs something positive in the worst way, let a rocket go from the left point that beat Hellebuyck cleanly.
Then the Jets started coming back. Adam Lowry squirted one through Kuemper from a shallow angle.
New Wild forward Ryan White got on the board with when Chris Stewart found him with a pass that White fired over the glove of Hellebuyck, subsequently ending Hellebuyck’s evening.
All would look fine until Mathieu Perreault cut the lead to two near the end of the second period. Kuemper slid to his right to thwart a wrap-around try. But the puck went out to the slot and Kuemper lost track of the puck until it was behind him.
The third period was incredibly chippy. Josh Morrissey and Jason Zucker seemed to battle all night long. Byfuglien was trying to be the agitator he normally is. Lowry and Niederreiter got into it a couple times. It all seemed to come to a head when the Jets got a fluky goal when Lowry fired a shot on a short-handed rush that Kuemper was able to blocker away. Except the puck went up, high off the glass and dropped on to Darcy’s back and into the net. It was eerily similar to the OT winner a couple season ago in the same fashion only John Curry was in net as the Wild dressed and played a herd of goalies that season on its way in to the playoffs.
That short-handed goal was after Jason Zucker drew his team leading 19th penalty of the season (Corsica.Hockey). Zucker has been monstrous this season alongside Koivu and Granlund and what the Wild decides to do with him in the offseason will be interesting to watch.
Mark Scheifele would tie the game and Boudreau would pull his netminder for the first time this season. Devan Dubnyk would enter and hold down the fort. He needed to. Minnesota was clearly having issues breaking out of the defensive zone. He also had to be good on two late Jets power plays. The first caused by Graovac coming to the defense of Charlie Coyle, who was tripped by Morrissey. Both dropped the gloves in the tussle, but Graovac would get the only minor. Then shortly after killing off the Graovac penalty, Niederreiter crushed Lowry on the near boards near the Wild blue line. He’d get assessed a boarding minor.
A soft clear to neutral zone was chased down by Erik Haula and skated into the zone. Haula was getting sealed off by Laine and Enstrom, so he didn’t have a good lane to the net. Instead, he looked over his shoulder, saw Zucker coming off the bench and swept the puck into an area for Zucker to receive it. Then Zucker didn’t miss for his 20th of the season. He joins Granlund and Niederreiter in the 20-goal club for the Wild. It would stand as the game-winning goal and the final score would read 6-5.
Certainly not a pretty win. Boudreau said as much after the game, “We weren’t very good at all. We got lucky. One of those games you got lucky.” But nonetheless, the Wild found a way to stave off another tally in the loss column by fighting through a heavy team in the Jets.
Wild will head to Columbus next with NHL trade deadline in between. Will the Wild make anymore moves? It may depend on the severity of the Suter injury. It may not at all and Chuck Fletcher was always looking to make another move. Either way, we will have the trade deadline and any Wild moves covered here at Hockey Wilderness. Stick around!