The Minnesota Wild have everything working for them in a gigantic response on home ice. The goal scoring, the physicality, the speed, the weather...the Wild had it working for them. Minnesota used a four-goal second period to pull away from the Jets and closed the door in the third period defensively en route to the win.
One of the scariest parts of the Jets’ attack is their power play. Matt Dumba got called for slashing Blake Wheeler just 43 second into the game. Not ideal when there are so many weapons to choose from for Winnipeg. The penalty kill of the team in Green and Wheat successfully killed it off without surrendering a single shot.
But the officials were calling it tight. Matt Cullen was called for a slash that would perhaps be called in the preseason, but we hasn’t been seen in the playoffs in 20 years. Blake Wheeler’s shot from the below the right offensive circle was tipped by Jonas Brodin’s stick and caught Devan Dubnyk cheating to his right. Minnesota was down 1-0 early.
The Wild went back to work, getting their 5-on-5 game back in order. Bruce Boudreau made some line-up changes, loading up his top line with Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, and Mikael Granlund. Eric Staal was cross checked after taking an extra whack at a puck in Connor Hellebuyck’s pads. On the ensuing power play, Adam Lowry then was called for roughing up Zucker 40 seconds later. Minnesota worked the 5-on-3 power play by moving the puck well and just getting stymied by Hellebuyck. As Ben Chiarot returned to the ice after his minor expired, the Wild got some shots through from the right side. The puck was punched out to Granlund in the left offensive circle and he didn’t miss.
The Jets got back to work after the game was evened up. Minnesota had some bad habits show back up with chipping the puck out and failing to clear. Winnipeg had some good shots on which Dubynk had to be sharp. After Cullen took a Jets defender hard into the boards, Chiarot tried to get physical on Charlie Coyle and was called for cross checking in the corner. Feeling confident after their first power play goal, Mikko Koivu made a hard shot/pass to the front of the net. Zach Parise, who missed 41 games of the season due to back surgery, made some room for himself and re-directed the puck past Hellebuyck for his 3rd goal of the playoffs and third in as many games. Parise has been quietly very good for the Wild since returning mid-season.
The Jets are an elite-level scoring team and an insurance goal was needed. The fourth line has been one of, if not the, best line for the Wild in the post season. Propped up by the strong play of Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno finding his physicality, and Daniel Winnik just being that clutch, savvy veteran the line has controlled a lot of the Wild’s total offensive zone time. That line was working again. Eriksson Ek made a great play to keep the puck in the zone and below the goal line. Daniel Winnik then rotated the puck back up to the point and left it for Matt Dumba. Dumba took a snap shot from just inside the blue line and beat Hellebuyck for the two goal lead.
Finally getting some insurance, the Wild needed some big stops by Dubnyk the rest of the way. Tyler Myers got the puck at the blue line because Brodin fanned on the clearing attempt. He shot and beat Dubnyk low blocker side. There was no deflection, no screen, and Myers just beat him cleanly.
The Wild needed to get pressure back on Hellebuyck and the Jets. Minnesota had just three shots on goal when Mikael Granlund made a play for the ages. When the puck was rimmed in on the near side boards, Granlund pinched and received the puck on the far boards. He then spun around to avoid a hit by a Jets defender and set up Staal right in his wheel house. Staal found just enough room between the post and Hellebuyck’s head, just below the cross bar, and above the right shoulder. It was a snipe for Staal’s first of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and it regained the two-goal lead for the Wild.
Just 20 ticks of the clock later, Jordan Greenway, who every game this series has gotten better, received the puck in the high slot, spun and fired past Hellebuyck for not just his first of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but his first NHL goal ever. Boudreau said Greenway was one of the bets forwards on the ice for the Wild in Winnipeg, but while he still shows how green his still is, that goal and his effort Sunday night was very solid.
On what looked initially like a benign play, play was stopped because Tyler Myers lied motionless near the door to the Jets’ bench. He left the game and didn’t return. It wasn’t until the middle of the third period that another camera angle was released that shows that maybe the play was a bit more sinister with Foligno making contact with Myers’ knee with his glove in a punch-like motion.
Minnesota didn’t let the Jets push back. With the puck moving around the offensive zone quickly and Hellebuyck scrambling a bit, Jared Spurgeon fired a slapper from the top of the right faceoff circle that banked off Marcus Foligno and in for his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal.
The score was 6-2 in favor of the Wild with only 20 minutes of good defensive hockey left. The Jets got 12 shots on goal in the final period, but many were of the low danger variety and the Wild locked them out of the front of the net.
A player who not just looked good Sunday night, but really since his call-up was Nick Seeler. Seeler was second on the team in blocked shots with four, one behind Dumba’s five. He played a grinding 18:04 of ice time with over three minutes on the penalty kill. The Eden Prairie native also notched two assists in the game that came on the Greenway and Foligno goals. He’s keeping his netminder’s crease clear and impacting games by playing a strong, responsible game.
Dubnyk made 29 saves on 31 shots, the fewest shots he’s had to face in the series so far. Minnesota’s power play was 4-for-5 with no bigger kills than the two kills in the middle of the second period in damn near back-to-back fashion.
Oh Patrik Laine? He had an assist, but he had just a single shot on goal. Blake Wheeler had a goal, but only one shot. Paul Stasnty had only one shot. Mark Scheifele had no shots. Really, the Wild played a good defensive game to keep some of the big knockers of the Jets in check.
Minnesota, with the win, now has the chance to even the series on Tuesday night. You can expect a better effort from Winnipeg as they will get their full normal routine. The Jets had trouble getting into the Twin Cities yesterday when all flights were canceled at MSP International during a blizzard that hit the area. They got into town around midday and did not have their morning skate.
We’ll have more on the Wild in the Stanley Cup Playoffs leading up to Game 4 and certainly beyond as we know that there will be a Game 5 back in Winnipeg. Enjoy this one, Minnesota!