July 20, 2018

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Dominant display in every way

Winnipeg out-hits, outshoots and outscores Minnesota to take 2-0 series lead

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Ben Chiarot, Jack Roslovic, Andrew Copp and Tyler Myers celebrate Copp's goal against the Minnesota Wild during third period Friday.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Winnipeg Jets' Ben Chiarot, Jack Roslovic, Andrew Copp and Tyler Myers celebrate Copp's goal against the Minnesota Wild during third period Friday.

The pace was noticeably quicker. The hits were seemingly harder. The crowd was arguably louder.

And the performance was thoroughly more dominant by the Winnipeg Jets, who blasted the Minnesota Wild 4-1 Friday night at Bell MTS Place.

“The first game was amazing. A pretty cool experience. We played OK, but… we took a huge step (Friday). Now we want more steps,” forward Nikolaj Ehlers said after his team held serve at home to go up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, which now shifts to St. Paul for the next two games starting Sunday.

Winnipeg rallied for a 3-2 win in Wednesday’s opener, but turned it on in a Game 2 where you’d have expected a more desperate opponent. After a fairly even and scoreless first period, the Jets left the Wild in their dust.

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The pace was noticeably quicker. The hits were seemingly harder. The crowd was arguably louder.

And the performance was thoroughly more dominant by the Winnipeg Jets, who blasted the Minnesota Wild 4-1 Friday night at Bell MTS Place.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Joe Morrow crushes Minnesota Wild Jordan Greenway during second period, Friday.</p>

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Joe Morrow crushes Minnesota Wild Jordan Greenway during second period, Friday.

"The first game was amazing. A pretty cool experience. We played OK, but… we took a huge step (Friday). Now we want more steps," forward Nikolaj Ehlers said after his team held serve at home to go up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, which now shifts to St. Paul for the next two games starting Sunday.

Winnipeg rallied for a 3-2 win in Wednesday’s opener, but turned it on in a Game 2 where you’d have expected a more desperate opponent. After a fairly even and scoreless first period, the Jets left the Wild in their dust.

Winnipeg outshot Minnesota 31-8 over the final 40 minutes (44-17 overall) and finally got some pucks past Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk.

Tyler Myers opened the scoring near the midway mark of the game with a highlight-reel goal. Paul Stastny, Andrew Copp and Patrik Laine then turned it into a rout in the final period.

Zach Parise spoiled Connor Hellebuyck’s shutout bid with just 45 seconds left.

All heck broke loose in the final seconds as a frustrated Minnesota squad seemingly wanted a pound of flesh. Daniel Winnik pummelled Brandon Tanev in a fight, and then Ben Chiarot dropped the gloves with Nick Seeler.

"Everybody got out healthy. It’s fine," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said of the late-game shenanigans.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods</p><p>Referree Kelly Sutherland attempts to breakup a fight between Minnesota Wild's Daniel Winnik and Winnipeg Jets' Brandon Tanev in the final minutes of the third period.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Referree Kelly Sutherland attempts to breakup a fight between Minnesota Wild's Daniel Winnik and Winnipeg Jets' Brandon Tanev in the final minutes of the third period.

Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said it was about time his listless squad showed some battle.

"It tells me that enough is enough. It’s not a series until you get a hate on for each other and I think that was created toward the end of the game. Not even the fighting, the chirping going on back and forth. It’s a rivalry now," said Boudreau.

Minnesota was battered and bruised throughout the game as Winnipeg outhit them 38-23, including many of the bone-rattling variety. Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien was a one-man wrecking crew, leading all players with eight hits. The biggest was on Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu in the second period.

"Just another day at the office," Byfuglien said of his impact. He was also in the middle of the final-minute melee and admitted he was relishing a long-awaited return to the playoffs.

Byfuglien, of course, won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010 only to be traded to Atlanta, which moved to Winnipeg one season later. Only one trip to the playoffs has come since then, a 2015 sweep at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks.

"That is one of the things I had to say. It doesn’t come around very often, so enjoy it. While you’re here you might as well give it all you’ve got. You never know what could happen," Byfuglien said of his message to teammates.

As for his thunderous hits?

"It makes me smile, I guess. You know that’s just part of the game. I just enjoy playing the game," Byfuglien said.

Maurice said veterans such as Byfuglien are really driving the bus right now for Winnipeg, but it’s simply a continuation of his strong play during the regular season.

"He’s played like that for a big chunk of the season but if you’re not scoring and you’re used to some of the things Dustin did, I think maybe, I know, his game was underappreciated this year. He played very, very well for us, didn’t score, and that seemed to draw a lot of the concern but his game was good," said Maurice.

"Cup or not, I think all veteran players on both teams, when you cross over the 30-mark you know there is going to be an end in sight. Anybody who has been in the league for a long time, the change in routine… the playoffs are a lot more fun. A guy who loves the game loves coming to the rink. This is a great time of year for him."

Minnesota did look dangerous in the first five minutes of the game, firing the first five shots. That included an early power-play opportunity. Hellebuyck came up big — and then sat back for much of the rest of his night as his team took over.

"They were playing great all night. We were putting the pressure on and that’s our game and we stuck to it," said Hellebuyck.

The Jets got an injection of energy with rookie Jack Roslovic making his playoff debut in place of Mathieu Perreault, who suffered an upper-body injury in Game 1. Roslovic skated on a line with Copp and Bryan Little and chipped in two assists.

"It was a fun one. Obviously, the building was pretty electric and there’s a lot to take out of that game. Once the nerves settle in, you’ve got to just play your game and just do what you’ve got to do," said Roslovic. "After the first shift, I sat on the bench, caught my breath and gathered my thoughts and I was ready to go."

Joel Armia moved to the checking line with Adam Lowry and Tanev. Once again the line made life miserable for Minnesota’s offence.

Roslovic made a great play on the opening goal, feeding Myers, who made a great fake on Jason Zucker to open up some room. Myers then cut hard to the net, beating Dubnyk high.

"Tyler played really well away from the puck and then he has that ability… he’s such a big man that when you’re checking him, you think you can shut him down. There’s too much of him to have him get it all by you. He’s pretty gifted, yeah," said Maurice.

Byfuglien set up the second goal with just over 12 minutes left in the third, giving Stastny a sharp pass from behind the net which the veteran centre one-timed. Copp’s goal, to make it 3-0, came less than two minutes later. Laine then finished up Winnipeg’s scoring with 2:02 left in the game with his second playoff goal in as many games.

"That’s the best situation for us. But it’s not going to be easy obviously. They’re a good home team, too, so we’ve got to be able to play our best game the next couple of games to get a couple of wins," said Laine.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

 

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

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.

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