In professional sports, good teams find a way to win.
On Saturday afternoon, the Minnesota Wild did just that against a struggling Winnipeg Jets club, erasing a 2-1 lead late in the third period en route to a 3-2 shootout victory.
Zach Parise scored a short handed goal with 4:55 left in the third period and Charlie Coyle put the icing on the cake with a fourth round goal in the shootout to extend win streak this season against the Jets to three straight games.
“We did a lot of good things but it wasn’t enough to win the game,” opined Jets’ tender Ondrej Pavelec after the game. “That’s the difference between the teams that make the playoffs and not make the playoffs and we’re on the other side right now.”
The Jets were just the latest victims of a red-hot Minnesota team. The Wild have now won six of its last seven games and are 9-1-1 in the month of November.
“They’ve been the best team in the National Hockey League in the month of November,” said coach Claude Noel. “It’s not been an easy task. We’re close but it’s the same stuff we’ve talked about before.”
Backstrom on short notice
Minnesota earned the win despite the loss of starting goalie, Josh Harding, who was injured just moments before puck drop. Harding suffered a lower body injury after stepping on the puck during warm up.
Niklas Backstrom, who practised for the first time Friday afternoon since returning from a concussion sustained earlier this month, was given the start on short notice. Backstrom made 37 saves and stopped three of four shooters in the shoout to earn the win.
“We know all goalies in this league are good,” said Jets defenceman Mark Stuart when asked if the last minute had any effect on his team’s game plan.
“Especially those two [Minnesota goalies] are real good. I don’t think that had an effect whatsoever.”
Ondrej Pavelec countered with a 33 save effort in the loss, falling to 8-9-3 on the year.
Third line spark
A positive out of the game for the Jets was the play of their third line. Matt Halischuk, Michael Frolik and Mark Scheifele connected for both of the Jets’ goals, proving they can be the type of secondary scoring the Jets desperately need.
“I thought we did a good job getting some pucks to the net and helping try to create some offence, coming back hard and trying to turn some pucks around,” said Halischuk after the game.
“I think we’ve been getting some chances the last little while here and playing with Fro and Schiefs is pretty easy. They make great plays so I just try to get to the net and luckily be able to get a few more behind the net.”
Hitting the road
The Jets will now pack up and hit the road for their next six games, their longest stretch away from the MTS Centre this season.
The trip kicks off with a game against New Jersey Monday night followed by New York (Islanders), Philadelphia, then back to New York (Rangers), before wrapping up in the Sunshine State with games against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning.
The road can be a mixed bag for players. On the one hand, it gives the team an opportunity to stay out of the spotlight and bond with their fellow man. On the other, a bad start could spell disaster during a crucial part of the season.
“The road can be good and bad,” said Stuart. “If you get on a roll right away it can be great.”
“It would have been nice to get a win today and have that ball rolling as we go on the road but it starts now with the first game. This is a big trip fro us, for sure. Hopefully we can build some momentum. I think it could be a big part of our season.”
It was another game the Jets let slip away. Winnipeg controlled a good portion of the play but defensive breakdowns allowed Minnesota to climb their way back. The Jets are in a position where a single point just isn’t good enough against divisional opponents. It will be a difficult one to forget, especially come late in the season when they start wondering where things went wrong.
First Star - Zach Parise, MIN
He finished the game with a goal and an assist, including a short-handed marker to tie the game with 4:55 left in the third period. In a game that had little excitement, he remained a pleasure to watch.
Second Star - Matt Halischuk, WPG
He was the best player on the ice for the Jets. Halischuk scored a goal and added an assist and was a plus-2 in only 12:52 of ice time.
Third Star - Ryan Suter, MIN
He’s the type of defenceman every team wants. Suter finished the game with an assist and was a plus-1 in an incredible 30:06 of ice time.