Two goals in a span of 28 seconds was the difference for the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, as the home team found its first victory in its first game at Bell MTS Place in the 2019-20 season, beating the visiting Minnesota Wild 5-2.
The first period saw the Jets jump ahead to an early lead in the shots department, aided by an early man advantage. However, the Wild bounced back, scoring the game’s opening goal on a strong offensive zone strip. Minnesota actually finished the period four shots ahead of the Jets, 16-12. Despite one goal against, netminder Connor Hellebuyck stood his ground, shutting down most of the visitors’ offensive attack.
Midway through the opening frame, rookie blueliner Ville Heinola collected the puck behind his net in an attempt to break out of the zone. Wild offseason acquisition Ryan Hartman stripped the 18-year-old of the puck, knocking him to the ground, before firing it past Hellebuyck for his first of the season. Minnesota entered the second period up 1-0.
Despite continuing to be outshot by their opponents, the second period belonged to the Jets. Just two minutes in, Mark Scheifele outworked two Minnesota defencemen before finding captain Blake Wheeler in front of the net. Wheeler found the twine on his 700th career NHL point, to which was greeted by a long standing ovation from the Jets faithful gathered at Bell MTS Place.
Only 21 current NHL players own higher points-per-game career averages than Blake Wheeler (.810). Just six of those players are older than Winnipeg’s captain. Wheeler is now 173rd all-time in points-per-game.
Midway through the frame Scheifele added another assist to his season total with a nifty cross-ice feed to Patrik Laine on a two-on-one. Laine ripped his second of the season past Devan Dubnyk. Laine, who picked up the secondary assist on Wheeler’s tally, found his eighth point of the season. The Wild led the Jets 31-22 in the shot department through 40 minutes.
After Brad Hunt knotted the game up early in the third period, Laine added another point to his game total. On a four-on-four situation midway through the final frame, the newly re-signed Finn set up Kyle Connor with an easy tap in, on the heels of a sweet juke around a Wild defenceman. Just 28 seconds later, with Nik Ehlers and Carter Soucy still in the penalty box, Jack Roslovic hammered home a Josh Morrissey rebound, giving Winnipeg a 4-2 lead.
Laine capped things off with an empty-net marker – his fourth point of the game.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 38 of 40 Minnesota shots, while Devan Dubnyk turned aside 25 of Winnipeg’s 29 offerings. The Jets will next go to battle with Chicago on Saturday at the Madhouse on Madison. Puck drop is set for 6:00 PM central. The game can be viewed live on Sportsnet.