It played out almost like we thought it was going to play out. The Wild just don’t have the scoring depth to keep up with the Jets, and if Minnesota gets even a tad loose, the Jets are going to make them pay. The Wild drop Game 1 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round by a score of 3-2. Devan Dubnyk was mostly sharp, but the Jets were just too much for the Wild to keep at bay.
The first period was two teams trying to feel each other out. Both teams played a strong, structured game, with just a smattering of real, actual chances. Devan Dubnyk was on his game early, and throughout much of the game. He and Connor Hellebuyck traded save after save as both teams skated to a scoreless tie. It was a good road period until the Jets awoke with about seven minutes left in the frame and out-shot the Wild 13-4 through the first 20 minutes.
The second period had better pace, and the Wild played a bit more in the Jets’ zone. It also featured the first penalty of the series. Eric Staal was called for tripping Mark Scheifele at 24 seconds in to the second period. Dubnyk made a great save on Scheifele during the power play, and the Wild were able to kill it off. Joel Eriksson Ek helped kill the penalty by taking up some seconds inside the Jets zone. Unfortunately, it ended by taking a gigantic shoulder-to-shoulder hit from Dustin Byfuglien.
Dustin Byfuglien goes shoulder-to-shoulder with an unsuspecting Joel Eriksson Ek. #MNWild pic.twitter.com/he6eaUzF1u— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) April 12, 2018
Mathieu Perreault tried playing a rough game and crashed the net hard, which Dubnyk was going to have no part.
Dubnyk didn't even budge. https://t.co/nDY772TrFr | #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/ol7pjKQl2F— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 11, 2018
Mikko Koivu ended up giving Perreault an exploding shoulder near the Wild line almost immediately after the Byfuglien hit in Eriksson Ek. He’d leave the game and wouldn’t return with an “upper-body injury.”
Forward Mathieu Perreault will not return to tonight’s game due to an upper body injury.— Winnipeg Jets PR (@WpgJetsPR) April 12, 2018
The roughness amped up. Jordan Greenway drew a penalty from Byfuglien and gave the Wild a power play. Matt Dumba looked like he may have nicked the post, but Hellebuyck was equal to the task for the remainder of the penalty kill. It was clear the Wild were trying to get the puck to Dumba at the top of the left circle, but the Wild need to use their forwards down low in front of the net more to keep that Dumba option open.
Nate Prosser ended up taking a holding minor when he checked Brandon Tanev and they both fell to the ice. This time the Jets power play was the difference. Blake Wheeler made a centering pass to Scheifele and Scheifele wouldn’t be denied this time. Minnesota took a 1-0 deficit into the 2nd intermission.
Overall, Bell MTS Place seemed to be waiting for the Jets to score and do good things. The Wild’s play through 40 minutes really was good enough to quiet a good crowd.
Minnesota needed an early jump to get back into the game. Forty-one year old Matt Cullen would oblige. Greenway skated the puck into the Jets’ zone diagonally from the near boards to the far (left) faceoff circle. He’d circle back and found Cullen breaking down the middle of the ice and Cully ripped a one-timer off the post and in to tie the game. Roughly 2 minutes later, the Wild got a 2-on-1 break with Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise. Granlund made the move to make a pass around the Jets defender and Parise was there to tap the puck in. The Wild had a lead, the goaltender was playing well, and the crowd was all but silenced.
It awakened the Jets, who all but stopped the Wild from crossing the center red line. The shots kept mounting and the ice began to tilt. A turnover by Mikko Koivu just outside the Wild blue line to Patrik Laine, ended up going back to Laine for a wicked wrist shot that beat Dubnyk’s glove. Boudreau was incensed by the goal because it was a bad turnover and Laine is too good to let him get a shot from the high slot.
With the score tied, Minnesota needed to re-discover their aggressiveness. Except they didn’t. It was all Jets. The Wild resorted to flipping the puck out to the neutral zone, and couldn’t generate any offense. There was one chance - perhaps the best chance the Eric Staal line got all night long - when Granlund kicked the puck to an open Jason Zucker who couldn’t get the puck out of his skates in time. Hellebuyck had to make a toe save to keep the puck out.
Then with more grinding away in the offensive zone for the Jets, Joe Morrow took a shot that hit Charlie Coyle’s stick and then went through Dubnyk’s five-hole for the go-ahead goal.
With 2:30 left, Boudreau pulled Dubnyk for the extra attacker. The Jets iced the puck six times as they tried for the open net, but couldn’t find it. There was offensive zone time for the Wild, but there was maybe one really good chance when Staal tried to wrap the puck out front and Koivu had his stick taken away while trying to get a stick on the puck in the slot. However, the Wild were too content to work the puck around the boards and not enough rubber on net.
In the end, the Jets were on top 3-2 as the clock hit zero. They were doubled up in shots 40-20, were 1-for-2 on the penalty kill. Staal having just one shot on goal is not good enough. Nino Niederreiter having just one shot on goal is not good enough. Overall, the Wild hung in there, but they know they need to be better in order to make a series out of this one.