Wednesday evening’s showdown in nearby St. Paul, Minnesota turned out to be another Thanksgiving disaster for the Winnipeg Jets. Having lost 7-1 the day after American Thanksgiving last season, the Jets once again were blown away by the hometown Wild, this time to the tune of 6-1 on the day before the annual festivities.
“You have to understand what the league can do to you if you come in and you’re not ready,” defenceman Nate Schmidt said post-game. “When you don’t play good for 50 minutes it doesn’t give you a good chance to win. You have to make sure you learn from it.”
The Wild scored first and often on Wednesday night. Needing just 8:20 to put the puck in the net, Minnesota registered its first goal one second after Blake Wheeler stepped out of the box following a two-minute hooking minor. It was a strange play that saw a seemingly innocent looking shot from Mason Shaw hit Hellebuyck in the upper-body, before bouncing off defenceman Josh Morrissey and trickle into the net. The Pas’ Connor Dewar picked up an assist on the game-opening tally.
But a difficult start to the second period seemingly sealed the fate of Connor Hellebuyck. Two goals in 1:08 put the home team up 3-0 just four minutes into the middle stanza.
First, it was another fluky tally that wound up hitting the Jets’ goalkeeper in the shoulder and floating up in the air before landing in the net behind. Once again, it was a Manitoban who made the play happen, as it was Brandon’s Calen Addison who took the shot, which ended up being his first goal of the young season.
Then, just over a minute after Minnesota’s goal 2:50 into the frame, Mathew Dumba put a perfectly placed shot-pass on the lower pad of Hellebuyck, who kicked the puck right to a waiting Marcus Foligno. He calmly tapped his second of the season into the net on the Wild’s third shot of the frame.
Kyle Connor did get one back for Winnipeg before the period ran out, however. Picking up a loose puck in the offensive zone, the speedy winger curled and ripped it through a Mikey Eyssimont screen and a bewildered Filip Gustavsson, cutting the lead to 3-1 through 40 minutes of play. Winnipeg did manage a few more shots than in the first period, bringing the totals to 28-19 for Minnesota after two periods of work.
The third period was another slew of goals from the Wild, with Kiril Kaprizov and Matt Boldy each scoring scoring power play markers, while Marcus Foligno found another tally for the Wild, who eventually ended up with the 6-1 home victory.
Hellebuyck had a poor showing, albeit three of the six goals against were so far out of his control that coach Bowness opted to leave him in until the bitter end. He ended up making 33 saves on the night, but let six pucks past him, bringing his record down to 8-5-1 on the year. Filip Gustavsson, on the other hand, turned aside 28 of 29 shots, only allowing the Kyle Connor strike and improving his all-time record to 3-0-0 against the Jets.
“It’s tough to get on a run in this league, but the great teams are consistent,” Connor said. “They show up every night. A couple nights it may not go their way, but the majority of the nights you’re in the fight every night. That’s what we’re striving to be.”
Winnipeg continues its three-game, Central Division road trip with a stop in Dallas on Friday. Having missed the season-opening trip to Texas this season, head coach Rick Bowness will return to the city of the team he led to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time as the bench boss of the Jets. Winnipeg will then conclude its trek with a game in Chicago on Sunday. Friday’s game can be seen live on TSN at 7:30 PM, while Sunday’s game will also be on TSN at 6:00 PM.