Isn’t it “adorable” how much we like Nino Niederreiter on this blog site? When He does what he did tonight, alongside a massive four point night by Jason Pominville, who factored in every Wild goal, it’s hard not to feel the love. When Minnesota is victorious, and takes six out of eight points on a Western Canadian road trip that commenced after the All-Star break, the objects in the Wild’s mirror look further and farther away.
The first period started with some truly odd, uncharacteristic Wild turnovers that led to early offense for the Jets. If Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk wasn’t ready to go, a rare Jared Spurgeon giveaway was like using smelling salts. Dubnyk was good early and allowed the Wild, who couldn’t sustain a forecheck, to get on the board. The story of the game was Charlie Coyle being placed in the middle of Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville. It was the first time all season Coyle played center.
And it paid dividends.
Pominville made a head-man pass up to Coyle at the Jets line with Niederreiter on his left flank. They both attacked Josh Morrissey as the entered the zone with Coyle dropping the puck to Nino. Niederreiter cut to the middle of the ice with a nice toe-drag and ripped a wrister past Jets started Ondrej Pavalec.
Minnesota wasn’t owning the puck and looked fairly mediocre, if not opportunistic the rest of the period. Coyle would intercept a Patrick Laine pass at the Jets line. He’d make a move to break into the zone then pass to the outer lane occupied by Pominville. Pominville wound up a slapper and fired the puck through Pavelec with just 40 ticks remaining in the opening period.
Shots were 12-11 in favor the Jets after one. At 2:33 of the second, the 22-3-29 line struck again. Pominville won a battle on the forecheck in the corner and led the puck behind the net for Coyle. Coyle fought to the left-front of the net, turned, and shot through the crease. Niederreiter was on the door step and missed the puck on a redirect, but the puck continued through to Pominville in the far circle. Pominville fired a one-timer past a sprawling Pavelec, and the 3-0 score would be the end of the Jets starter’s night.
Then the Jets owned the shot counter. They’d outshoot the Wild 17-6 in the period and get goals from Bryan Little and Joel Armia. Little’s goal came when he corralled a loose puck in front and Marco Scandella was caught in a battle with Shawn Matthias. Armia’s goal came on a rather benign shot from the left circle, even if it was labeled for the high glove corner. Dubnyk could only get a piece of the puck with his arm.
Minnesota was lucky to escape the period still with a one goal lead.
The Wild had a glorious chance to extend the lead early in the third, when super star and all-time bonehead Dustin Byfuglien shot Jason Zucker’s loose stick toward Mikael Granlund. That resulted in a penalty shot, because that’s against the rules. Byfuglien should know that, but he’s good for a idiotic mistake at least once per game. Granlund made a nice move, but couldn’t direct the puck into the net on his reach with Connor Hellebuyck down and out of position.
The Wild were better in the third period overall, and Dubynk was exceptional in goal the rest of the way. Nino Niederreiter would seal the game with his 17th, and team leading goal into the empty net.
Minnesota will now start an 8-game home stand tomorrow against the hated Blackhawks, Darcy Kuemper, barring any fluky injury, will get the nod in net. Luckily the flight home is short, because the Wild looked like a ragged team concluding a long road trip. We shall see what kind of effort the Wild have in them on home ice.