There was an early Jets lead, a Patrik Laine goal, the debut of two new faces, a lead change, a reviewed goal, a coach’s challenge and a goal-mouth scramble. Unfortunately it also showcased a late-game collapse by the hometown team.
After playing ahead for the majority of the game, the Winnipeg Jets squandered their slight lead and fell behind with just a minute left to play Tuesday at home, ultimately falling to the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in a dissatisfying loss.
Just over 24 hours after being acquired by the Jets, both forward Kevin Hayes and defenceman Nathan Beaulieu made their Winnipeg Jets debuts. Filling in for the injured Josh Morrissey, Beaulieu provided some stability on the back-end while paired with Jacob Trouba. Hayes found himself centering the Jets’ second line with wingers Nikolaj Ehlers and Mathieu Perreault on his left and right.
Beaulieu had a glorious scoring opportunity early into his first shift as Jet, as the 26-year-old former Buffalo Sabre collected a loose puck in the slot and shot it through traffic and on net. Moments later, Winnipeg’s prized trade deadline possession Hayes touched the puck for the first time, and the Jets’ faithful gathered at Bell MTS Place let out a loud cheer.
The first period saw Winnipeg take an early lead, as the Jets’ top power play unit combined to put up the first goal of the game midway into the opening frame. With Minnesota’s Greg Pateryn in the box for high sticking, Patrik Laine dished the puck off to Mark Scheifele along the half-wall, who walked in down low and beat Devan Dubnyk with a hard wrist shot five-hole.
Scheifele’s 31st of the season was the only goal of the first 20 minutes, but both division rivals had a number of quality chances off the bat. After a scary opening shift of the game, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck settled in nicely, stopping all 12 of Minnesota’s shots in the period. Dubnyk also made 12 saves on 13 Jets’ shots.
The Wild came out firing in the second period, putting up the first five shots of the frame, and that onslaught eventually paid off. With Patrik Laine in the box for hooking, Winnipeg jumped into the rush, but failed to capitalize on a shorthanded three-on-one, sending the puck back down ice into the Jets’ defensive zone.
Just moment later, defenceman Brad Hunt collected the puck at the point and back pedaled across the blueline, before wripping a wrist shot through a screen and past Connor Hellebuyck glove side, top shelf.
Not letting the tying goal get to their heads, the Jets put the puck deep in the Minnesota zone immediately off the faceoff at centre ice. Defenceman Ben Chiarot outmuscled nearly the entire Wild squad, before putting a backhand shot off Patrik Laine and into the net. The goal came with 7:56 to play, just 14 seconds after the Hunt tally.
The visitors outshot the hometown boys in the middle frame, finishing the period with 14 pucks on net, jumping ahead to a 26-22 lead through 40 minutes.
The game’s most entertaining moments occurred in the final 1:27 of play. With Tyler Myers in the penalty box for cross checking, Jason Zucker collected a perfect Ryan Donato offering in the slot and buried a wrist shot past Hellebuyck, tying the game with just under a minute-and-a-half to go.
Off the ensuing centre-ice faceoff, Minnesota gained the Jets’ blueline and put the puck on net. A combined jamming effort of Joel Eriksson-Ek and Zach Parise got the loose puck past a sprawled out Hellebuyck and over the goal line. The play was reviewed, and then subsequently challenged, but the goal stood.
With no timeout remaining, the Jets moved the puck around the offensive zone, trailing 3-2. Just seconds into their zone control, Parise took a tripping minor. Winnipeg opted to hand the Wild the puck, resulting in an immediate whistle and six-on-four scenario with 39 seconds to play.
Unable to take a timeout, the Jets lost the offensive zone draw, while the Wild cleared the zone. Winnipeg was then unable to properly set up in the final 20 seconds, losing their fourth-straight game to their closest geographical rival, 3-2. Minnesota outshot Winnipeg 39-32.
After falling 4-2 to the Wild on the road in late November, the Jets were handed another two-goal loss to Minnesota a month later at home. An early January contest in St. Paul also resulted in a 3-2 loss by the visitors. Winnipeg travels to play Minnesota on the second of April for their final contest between the Central Division rivals, and third-last game of the 2018-19 regular season schedule.
Following Tuesday’s game, Winnipeg will look to get back on track while hosting another Central Division opponent, the Nashville Predators on Friday, in a critical home contest with their 2018 second round Stanley Cup Playoff opponent. The game will be aired on TSN3 at 7:00 PM central. The Jets will then hit the road for a four-game heater with stops in Columbus, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Washington, playing teams all currently holding playoff spots.