Savvy Wild crush Jets’ comeback

Late goal seals deal after Winnipeg rebounded from two-goal deficit in third

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The Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild got together for a Central Division family reunion Tuesday night at the MTS Centre, but there wasn’t much brotherly love to spread around. It was playoff-style hockey, rough and ugly in spots.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/02/2017 (2101 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild got together for a Central Division family reunion Tuesday night at the MTS Centre, but there wasn’t much brotherly love to spread around. It was playoff-style hockey, rough and ugly in spots.

The Wild, winners of all three previous meetings between the teams this season, entered the game in the role of an older and wiser sibling — a mature Stanley Cup contender currently perched in top spot in the NHL’s Western Conference.

The youthful Jets, meanwhile, are fifth in the Central Division and have earned their status as playoff outsiders scrambling for respect.

Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press Minnesota Wild's Marco Scandella celebrates after scoring during the second period.

Jason Zucker’s goal with 130 seconds left in the game sent the Jets to 6-5 loss and dealt another devastating blow to Winnipeg’s fading hopes for the post-season. Zucker’s marker, coming after a superb cross-ice feed by Erik Haula, came just as a Winnipeg power play was expiring.

“They got some chances early, they put them in,” said Jets forward Mathieu Perreault, whose club slipped to 28-30-6 and remains five points out of the final wild-card playoff spot in the conference. “We we able to battle back but it was just a heartbreaker at the end…

“Our season’s on the line. We gotta win games. We’re five points back and we were able to battle back in this game, it was huge. We got a couple of power plays and weren’t able to score and (then) they score. It was just brutal.”

After a promising start, triggered by super rookie Patrik Laine’s 31st goal of the season, the Jets faded quickly under the onslaught of head coach Bruce Boudreau’s well-prepared squad.

Mikael Granlund, Tyler Graovac, Erik Haula, Marco Scandella and Ryan White scored as the visitors built a 5-3 lead through 40 minutes. White’s goal, coming at 14:19 of the second period after a Mark Stuart turnover, signalled the end for Jets starter Connor Hellebuyck, who gave way to Michael Hutchinson after allowing five goals in 21 shots.

“He was like our team in a lot of ways, in that it wasn’t easy for him finding it or hanging on to it,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice when asked about Hellebuyck’s play. “I didn’t think there were a lot of easy stops there for him. Those are the things you gotta fight through as a young goaltender. You gotta learn how to handle it.”

Adam Lowry, with his 11th of the season to equal a career high, and Perreault, with his seventh, scored second-period goals to keep the Jets close.

In the third, Winnipeg ramped up the pressure to tie the game at 5-5 on goals by Joel Armia, his seventh, and Mark Scheifele, with his 26th.

Armia’s goal, coming when a rising shot bounced off the glass and off goaltender Darcy Kuemper’s back and into the net, spelled the end for Kuemper. Minnesota’s No. 2 allowed five goals in 29 shots before being replaced by Devan Dubnyk. It was the first time Boudreau has pulled a goalie this season.

“It’s not always fair in this league, I guess,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “I wouldn’t say that we grossly outplayed them and deserved a better fate. You gotta take some positives out of the fact that we battled back from a couple of deficits. We would have liked to at least get that to overtime.”

The Jets got some relief when the St. Louis Blues, currently holding the final wild-card spot, lost 2-1 to the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday.

“We have two days for practise and we’ve got to work hard,” said Scheifele, whose club hosts the Blues Friday night. “If things aren’t going great for you, you’ve got to work harder. We’ve got two days to work hard.”

Scheifele and Perreault finished the game with a goal and two assists each while Laine had a goal and an assist and now has 56 points in 55 games.

Talking Trade? 

Perreault said he was surprised to hear name included in speculation prior to today’s NHL trading deadline, noting he signed a four-year contract extension in the off-season, which kicks in next season. He made it clear Tuesday he doesn’t want to go anywhere.

“I haven’t worried too much about it. The way the team’s been playing of late has been a lot of fun, so I’ve been enjoying myself. Whatever happens, happens. To me it doesn’t make much sense to get traded, but I guess it’s out of my control,” he said.

Noteworthy

A mumps outbreak on the Wild forced forwards Zach Parise and Jason Pominville out of the lineup, paving the way for centre Tyler Graovac’s return to the NHL. Graovac played his fourth game in as many days Tuesday. He played on Saturday and Sunday for Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa before suiting up for the parent club Monday night against the Los Angeles Kings… Mikael Granlund’s goal and two assists Tuesday gives the Minnesota veteran 45 points in his last 36 games… Michael Hutchinson’s relief appearance was his first action since Jan. 16…. Minnesota defenceman Ryan Suter left the game shortly after being hit from behind into the boards by Paul Postma. Postma was assessed a boarding major… The Jets have now allowed three or more goals in 22 of their last 27 games… After Winnipeg’s loss, NHL teams are 8-15-4 in games following the league’s mandated five-day break…. Michael Hutchinson stopped six of seven shots in his relief appearance… Devan Dubnyk stopped all seven shots he faced.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

History

Updated on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 11:39 PM CST: full write-thru

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