Were the Wild going to eke out a gutsy win and win when they probably shouldn't, or were the Wild going to be splayed out like William Wallace at the end of Braveheart? That was the biggest question leading into the Saturday's matinee in Winnipeg. The Jets were 7-2 in their last 9 games, while the Wild were losers of five straight.
The Wild started fast by using a shoot-first mentality. After not tallying a single shot on goal off the odd-man rush, the Wild had three early in the first period all resulting in a shot on goal from the primary puck carrier. Jets starting goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was equal to the task. It looked like the Wild's scoring woes were going to continue. Nick Seeler was scratched with an upper body injury prompting the Wild to call up Matt Bartkowski to fill in on the third defensive pairing. He'd factor in right away after getting the puck in the high slot. He dusted the puck off and fired a wrist shot through a crowd over the glove of Hellebuyck to give the Wild an early 1-0 lead. The Wild controlled most of the period ending with a 14-4 shot advantage. Devan Dubnyk even made a tough save near the end of the period after a slap shot from the point went wide and bounced off the end boards out to the other side.
The Wild continued the same pressure to start the second period. It was still a shoot first mentality and more odd-man rushes. Zach Parise was denied on a clear breakaway by the right pad. The ensuing rush ended with Parise forcing the puck through to Charlie Coyle streaking down the center lane. Coyle pulled the puck back and roofed the puck over the blocker side just under the bar on Hellebuyck.
After the goal, the Jets began to push back. The shot totals began to even up and Dubnyk had to be sharp. Nino Niederreiter took the game's first penalty, giving the Jets a chance to get back into the game. The Wild couldn't have had a better penalty kill to keep the Jets at bay. The Wild ended the second with a 2-0 lead.
The Jets came out with a big push that the Wild had to weather. Greg Pateryn made a nice defensive play, but then took a penalty right after. Patrik Laine scored on a slap shot one-timer from the point. The Wild PK was gassed after failing to clear the puck and a couple big time blocked shots. But Laine's second crack at the one-timer was not to be denied.
Making for a tense final 12 minutes of the game, the Wild held on and added an empty net goal from Eric Fehr. It was the gutsy win where the Wild just conducted their business by keeping the game simple, getting a big contribution from the fourth line so Bruce Boudreau could roll four lines all game long, and Devan Dubnyk giving one hell of a response after getting yanked last game.
Parise had two assists in the game. Charlie Coyle tallied his 6th goal of the season and has been pretty good the last few games since moving to center. The top line of Jason Zucker - Eric Staal - Mikael Granlund was pretty atrocious. Lastly, Jordan Greenway keeps getting chances by playing fast and using his strength. He also got quite the gash on his right cheek after a hard pass from Niederreiter was deflected by the blade of Dustin Byfuglien's stick right into his face.
Minnesota snaps a five game losing streak. It feels good to finally write about a win. A much needed win. A big time divisional win over an opponent playing well.