Jets made to look like turkeys in Minnesota
Winnipeg roasted 6-1 by Wild
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ST. PAUL — It’s become a regular occurrence on the NHL schedule: the Winnipeg Jets head down to the Twin Cities around U.S. Thanksgiving for a clash with their closest Central Division rivals.
Once again, the visitors played the role of plump, juicy turkeys ready to be feasted on by their hungry opponent.
How else to explain a second straight holiday stinker against the Minnesota Wild, this time to the tune of a 6-1 thrashing on Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center, which is actually a modest improvement over last year’s 7-1 beatdown on Black Friday which sent the club into a tailspin.
“Talk to the schedulers. Get us out at this time of year,” said Jets defenceman and Minnesota native Nate Schmidt on the latest unhappy homecoming.
He’s kidding, we think. But there wasn’t much to laugh about after a lacklustre performance led to Winnipeg’s most lopsided loss of the year. They fall to 11-6-1 and missed a golden opportunity to put some distance between themselves and Minnesota, who improve to 9-8-1.
“We only played 10 good minutes of the game. That’s not going to do very well for you,” said Schmidt. “You have to learn from it. You have to understand what the league can do to you if you come in and you’re not ready.”
Kyle Connor had the lone goal for the Jets, his sixth. Marcus Foligno scored twice, while Mason Shaw, Calen Addison, Kirill Kaprizov and Matt Boldy had singles for the home team.
Let’s get out the fork and knife and carve this one up, shall we:
1) The Jets had done so well this season staying out of the penalty box, then killing off most of the minors they took. That was not the case in this one. Minnesota went 2-for-5 on the power play as Winnipeg lost its collective cool.
“I think one of the concerns is the lack of discipline. That really bothered me tonight. Penalties at the wrong time. Turnovers at the wrong time. Yapping at the refs. Those things lead into other issues,” said Jets coach Rick Bowness.
A few examples stand out.
After Minnesota grabbed a 3-0 lead early in the second period — a couple off fluky bounces — Winnipeg actually took over the game and had crawled back into it thanks to Connor’s goal at 14:18. It could have been even closer, with Connor hitting the post earlier, and Cole Perfetti robbed of what looked to be a sure goal on a two-on-one.
But all that momentum came to a screeching halt when Perfetti took a slashing minor with 1:19 left in the period, and Kaprizov made them pay 28 seconds into the third.
Later, with the score now 5-1 after an atrocious giveaway by Blake Wheeler gifted the Wild a 2-on-0, Pierre-Luc Dubois blew a gasket, took a needless roughing penalty (after getting called for holding earlier in the final period) and Minnesota cashed in on the ensuing power play 32 seconds later to make it a rout.
“There are different forms of discipline. It’s not just the penalties. It’s the turnovers. It’s the penalties at the wrong time. It’s all those little things that caught up to us tonight,” said Bowness, who cited the strong play of his fourth line as the only real positive.
2) So, coach, do you just flush that out of the system, especially coming off a rock-solid victory 48 hours earlier on home ice over the Carolina Hurricanes?
“No, we don’t flush it. Not a chance. Not letting that go,” said Bowness.
For that reason, he kept the dressing room closed for an extended period as he spoke with his team prior to meeting the media. Bowness said there are times you’d stay out of their way and let them quietly stew. This was not one of those.
“I believe there are harsh reminders of how to play this game the right way. Harsh reminders of how to win in this league,” he said.
“One of the things we talked about after the game is these teams are chasing us now. Alright, two things with that. Take pride in the fact that you’re there, but also take the responsibility that comes with being on a good team. There’s a responsibility that comes with that. Being prepared, and playing the right way. None of those things we did tonight.”
3) Connor Hellebuyck was essentially hung out to dry, beaten six times on 39 shots.
“We can’t be giving up 2-on-0s and back doors on the power play,” said Connor. “Going back to being a little more disciplined. He’s one of our best players, one of the best players in the league too. I know he’ll bounce back. He’ll be one of our best players the rest of the season. That’s just how he is.
Hellebuyck was especially upset after the sixth Minnesota goal in which he pleaded for a goalie interference call. Bowness ultimately decided to take on his No. 1 netminder’s case and challenge, which was quickly rejected and led to another Winnipeg penalty.
“I’m going to support Connor. He made the right call. He looks at me and he thinks it’s goaltender interference, I will go with him 100 per cent,” said Bowness, who never thought about giving Hellebuyck a mercy pull once the score got out of hand.
“He wasn’t at fault. It’s not like ‘OK, the goalie is having a bad night.’ That wasn’t the case at all, so let him finish the game. I love the guy and I let him compete,” he said.
4) With so many Minnesota-born players on the roster, there’s no question this is a regular visit many look forward to, but Xcel has become a house of horrors for the Jets, now with just two wins in their last dozen games in this building.
Bowness tried to get the good vibes going by inviting Blake Wheeler’s father, Jim, into the dressing room prior to puck drop to read out the starting lineup. He then put as many local products on the ice for the opening face off as possible, with Wheeler on the wing, and Schmidt and Dylan Samberg (playing his first NHL game in his backyard) on the blue line.
Neal Pionk was the other Minnesotan in the lineup, while Dominic Toninato was a healthy scratch.
5) A few injury updates flowed out of the team on Wednesday. Forward Nikolaj Ehlers, who has now missed the last 15 games and counting, underwent sports hernia surgery in Detroit earlier in the day. He’s expected to miss anywhere from six to 10 more weeks.
Dylan DeMelo missed a third straight game with an upper-body injury but took the morning skate and could return later this week. Morgan Barron, who had wrist surgery at the beginning of November, is also getting closer as he practices with the team in a non-contact jersey.
Defenceman Logan Stanley has resumed skating in Winnipeg as he rehabs from a broken foot. Forward Mason Appleton, who underwent wrist surgery last week, is not expected back for at least two months, possibly longer.
Toninato and defenceman Kyle Capobianco were the two healthy scratches.
Up next: The three-game road trip continues on Friday in Dallas, then concludes Sunday in Chicago.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.