The Minnesota Wild dropped their second consecutive home game with a 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets Friday at the Xcel Energy Center.
A common theme has emerged in those game, as well as losses in four of five before them. They are constantly playing behind the puck and chasing the play for very long stretches. They get pinned in their own zone and fail to establish more than a one-and-done opportunity in the offensive zone.
“It’s tough to play when you feel like you’re chasing the puck the whole game,” Zach Parise said. “It’s tough to make plays, it’s tough to make shots when you never have the puck. It was a frustrating game to play.”
How can the Wild reverse the trend and get in front of the puck?
“We’ve got to make better plays in the neutral zone,” Parise said. “That’s really what it is. When we are playing well, we are getting out of our zone quickly, we’re moving the puck up and we’re getting up the ice with four guys. Right now, it felt like a lot of stretch plays that are broken up and then nothing happening. That’s frustrating to play like that. When you get a team that plays that 1-1-3 like that, they’re just stacking the blue line. It felt like we were trying to make stretch plays right into them.”
The Jets (11-11-2) got on the board first with a second period power play goal. Mathieu Perreault fired a shot over the shoulder of Devan Dubnyk from the bottom of the right circle. Perreault took a pass from Dustin Byfuglien at the top of the circle and glided toward the net. Ryan Suter held position at the top of the crease and failed to challenge Perreault nor defend Bryan Little, who was cutting in front of Dubnyk to create a screen. Dubnyk was upset about something after the replay was shown on the jumbotron and wanted an explanation with the referee. It is unclear what he wanted to talk about as Little never touched nor interfered with his positioning. His right skate was kicked by a skater and that may have drawn his ire, but it was Jared Spurgeon’s skate that clipped him.
The Jets extended their lead with a shot by Dustin Byfuglien from behind the goal line. His shot, with backside nearly against the end boards, went off Dubynk and dropped just on the wrong side of the goal line.
The Wild (11-7-3) got back to within a goal nearing the midway point of the third period when Ryan Carter’s shot from the goal line hit traffic and bound into the net beside Connor Hellebuyck. The Wild’s fourth line was physical in the offensive zone to create the scoring chance. Chris Porter and Jonas Brodin assisted on the physical, grinding goal.
Hellebuyck, one of the top goaltending prospects in the NHL, finished with an 14-save win. The rookie was teammate at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell with Wild defenseman Christian Folin.
“It’s fun for him,” Folin said. “We really didn’t challenge him enough though. He’s a good goalie, but we didn’t put up too many shots. He did a good job. Good for him.”
Nikolaj Ehlers capped the scoring and put the game away for the Jets with a breakaway goal with three minutes remaining in the third period. The Wild got caught over-pressuring the play in the offensive zone and Ehlers got a clean breakaway with a tired Carter in closest pursuit. Ehlers easily pulled away before reaching the blue line.
No. 3 – Ryan Carter. The Wild forward scored a goal.
No. 2 – Dustin Byfuglien. The Jets defenseman had a goal and an assist.
No. 1 – Mathieu Perreault. The Jets forward scored a goal.
Winnipeg….…0 1 2 – 3
Minnesota……0 0 1 – 1
First Period – None. Penalties – Peluso, WPG, major (fighting), 2:14; Gabriel, MIN, major (fighting), 2:14; Perreault, WPG (slashing), 8:27; Dumba, MIN (unsportsmanlike conduct), 8:27; Stuart, WPG (slashing; served by Ehlers), 13:16; Stuart, WGP (roughing), 13:16; Carter, MIN (roughing), 13:16; Brodin, MIN (hooking), 17:29.
Second Period – 1, Winnipeg, Perreault 3 (Bufuglien, Wheeler), 16:26 (pp). Penalties – Zucker, MIN (elbowing), 15:45.
Third Period – 2, Winnipeg, Byfuglien 7 (Lowry, Burmistrov), 2:24. 3, Minnesota, Carter 3 (Porter, Brodin), 9:09. 4, Winnipeg, Ehlers 5 (Thorburn), 17:00. Penalties – Granlund, MIN (hooking), 19:46.
Shots on goal – Winnipeg 11-6-12 29. Minnesota 3-7-5 15.
Goalies – Winnipeg, Hellebuyck (14-15). Minnesota, Dubnyk (26-29). Referees – Jon McIsaac, Graham Skilliter. Linesmen – Devin Berg, Mark Wheler.