Man, don’t sleep on these Minnesota Wild. After spotting the high-flying (pun intended) Winnipeg Jets a 2-0 lead in the first, and failing to convert on any of their six power play opportunities, it didn’t feel like this one was going to be Minnesota’s night.
But somehow, the team battled back, took control of the play, and found four goals in the third period to take down the Jets (another pun intended). It’s just a huge win for Minnesota, who had been in a tight battle with Winnipeg for the second spot in the Central Division.
DON’T SLEEP ON THESE WILD!
Alex Stalock—playing for a sick Devan Dubnyk—was sharp early, and had to be, as Winnipeg really dominated the opening minutes. He made an unbelievable sprawling blocker save on Kyle Connor, coming across to turn away a rebound that looked like a sure goal.
Nearing the twelve-minute mark, Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker entered Winnipeg’s zone on a two-on-one. Granlund laid a perfect saucer pass (as he does) onto the stick of Zucker to put him alone with Connor Hellebuyck, but Zucker just couldn’t lift the puck over Hellebuyck’s blocker. Then at the sisxteen-minute mark, Hellebuyck came up big on another rush by that line, as Eric Staal fed Granlund off of a three-on-two that the big ’17-’18 Vezina finalist very calmly turned away.
With Hellebucyk looking solid on one end, the Jets scored first at the other end at 16:50, shortly after Bryan Little won an offensive zone face-off back to Tyler Myers. Myers ripped one that got partially deflected off of a Wild stick. Stalock made a nice pad save, but phenom Patrik Laine was left alone on the doorstep, a spot from which he doesn’t miss. Laine deposited the rebound for one of the easiest goals of his young career.
With a minute left in the stanza, Ben Chiarot completely whiffed on a shot from the point, and recovered by straight-up tackling Zucker before he could catch up to the puck. The Wild didn’t generate anything on the power play, though, and the teams went to the dressing rooms with Winnipeg holding a 1-0 lead.
As that power play ended in the first minute of the second frame, the Wild immediately got another chance, when Big Buff nailed Granlund away from the puck. Nothing doing on that one either, but then Mathieu Perreault whacked Nick Seeler, and the parade to the box continued. THIS time… the Wild... STILL came up empty. The best look on that power play came when Jared Spurgeon caught a deflected pass on the far side and one-timed it toward a partially open net. The ever-present-at-the-netfront Zach Parise accidentally blocked it, though, so after three straight power plays to close out the first and start the second, the Wild still had a goose egg on the board.
With two power play chances of their own, the Jets would make no such mistake, as Nicolaj Ehlers cashed in at 18:57. The speedster snuck in from the blueline, caught a pass in the right circle from Perreault, used Seeler as a screen, and just rifled it through Stalock’s legs.
2-0 Jets to close out the second.
The Wild FINALLY broke through three minutes into the third. Greg Pateryn fired a stretch pass to Nino Niederreiter, who had been demoted to the FOURTH LINE for this game. Niederreiter carried it through the neutral zone and drove the Jets’ defenders back, then crossed to the left side and fired a perfect shot under Hellebuyck’s glove. Now 2-1 Winnipeg.
Minnesota got its sixth opportunity on the man advantage when Little was called for interference at 8:09 of the third, but yet again, the Wild came away empty handed. BUT, who needs a power play, when you have Niederreiter on the fourth line? Nino carried the puck behind WInnipeg’s net, where it got poked off his stick by Josh Morissey. Fortunately for Minnesota, the puck went out in front, where Eric Fehr was waiting to swat the puck by Hellebuyck for his fourth of the year. 2-2.
Once the game was tied, it started to take a slightly nastier tone, as J.T. Brown put a big hit on Andrew Copp at the end of the Winnipeg bench. Copp’s head hit the curved portion of the glass, and he was down for a while, during which time Brown jawed with the Jets’ bench and got the bad blood flowing.
Adam Lowry responded to the Brown hit by throwing a nasty elbow directly into Joel Eriksson Ek’s face a couple minutes later, and all hell broke loose when Seeler jumped to JEEK’s defense. Seeler fell through the open door to WInnipeg’s bench, which of course led to a complete melee, as Minnesota players were diving in to try to pull their teammate out, and the Jets were holding Seeler down and giving him the business. Eventually the officials climbed into the bench as well and sorted things out, before dishing coincidental penalties to both teams. It was quite the scene.
Soon after the melee, Ryan Suter took a penalty at a very bad time, inside of five minutes and with the game tied, but the Wild did a great job to kill it off. As soon as Suter was back on the ice, Matt Dumba led a rush and put the puck on Hellebucyk. Eric Staal battled in front, and found his second game winner in as many contests at 17:29 of the third.
With 1:09 left, Parise got the empty-net dagger with a shot from the redline.
Like I said, don’t sleep on these Minnesota Wild! What a win!