Jets jump out early, hang on to beat Wild
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- If the Winnipeg Jets made a habit of showing the resiliency required to recover from blowing a four-goal lead and pull off a dramatic win, they would be gearing up for the playoffs.
As it is, Sunday afternoon’s 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Wild was more of an isolated incident from a team that sits 10 points below the playoff line.
The home side, sporting their uber-popular 1980s-inspired Heritage Classic jerseys for just the third time all season, jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the game was 25 minutes old, gave it all up in less than 11 minutes, went ahead in the final frame and then held on by their fingernails when the Wild launched a furious push.
Michael Hutchinson relieved Connor Hellebuyck in the Jets net after 40 minutes and stopped 13 shots -- including many of the highlight-reel variety -- in posting the victory, his first since Dec. 22 at Vancouver.
Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk surrendered five goals on 21 shots as the Wild have now lost five consecutive games and seven of their last eight. The Wild outshot the Jets 48-21.
Rookie defenseman Josh Morrissey, 21, scored the winner on a one-timer that rang in off the post midway through the third period -- his third game-winner of the season -- as the Jets (32-33-7) had five different goal-scorers.
Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry, Ben Chiarot and Dustin Byfuglien also lit the lamp for Winnipeg. Chris Stewart scored twice and Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund scored once each for the Wild (43-22-6).
The Wild threw everything they could at Hutchinson in the dying moments, as they pulled Dubnyk while already on a power play after Byfuglien was penalized for closing his hand on the puck with 2:07 to go.
Morrissey, a left-handed shot who was paired with freshly-recalled Brian Strait on the right side for the first time all season, said they were talking on the bench in the third period about how he could slide over to the middle and take a one-timer rather than receive a pass on his backhand.
“Our very next shift was the goal. It’s not too often when you talk about those things and it actually end up working right away. I just tried to get it through the first guy and fortunately it went through the screen and went in. We tried to talk lots and keep it simple,” he said.
It helped that 6-foot-4 rookie Patrik Laine was parked in front of Dubnyk.
Jets Coach Paul Maurice encouraged his troops during the second intermission -- which came 13 seconds after the Wild tied the game -- to live in the moment and not dwell on the past.
“If you spend a whole lot of time thinking about how you got there, you’re not taking care of the things you need to do. We were good at the start of the third. We had three of the first four chances and there was some good action there. We got back into our game. You can’t always -- I‘m not sure if control is the right word -- but certainly if you’re constantly assessing your last five minutes, you’re not paying attention to the minute you’re playing,” he said.
“You’ve allowed the other team to build some momentum and they’ve got a good team, so they’re going to seize that. In terms of specifics, get your legs moving. When your brain is going 100 miles an hour, often your feet aren’t and you’ve got to change that and try to get back (to skating).”
He also decided to pull Hellebuyck for the eighth time this season. But he wouldn’t tip his hand about which goalie would play Tuesday night against Philadelphia. Hellebuyck has started 16 consecutive games.
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, meanwhile, may have set a record for the shortest post-game press conference, clocking in at 28 seconds.
“Hey, listen -- we stunk in the first. We better come back in the second. Holy crap. It’s not resiliency. You make it sound like we’re good. That’s all. I‘m done,” he said.
Dubnyk took ownership of the Jets’ fourth goal, a laser of a backhand from Byfuglien, and praised his teammates for mounting a comeback that fell just short.
“We’re probably the toughest team in the league to play against when we’re moving the puck around and we showed that tonight in coming back. I thought we were going to get it in the third period and their shot through traffic found a way in. I didn’t see the puck. I just heard the post,” he said.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler also had two assists, cracking the 500-point mark in his career.
NOTES: In the press box for the Jets were D Paul Postma, D Jacob Trouba, D Toby Enstrom, RW Shawn Matthias and G Ondrej Pavelec. ... Joining them from the Wild were D Christian Folin, C Jordan Schroeder, RW Jason Pominville and D Nate Prosser. ... Wild C Eric Staal became the 311th player to suit up for 1,000 NHL games on Sunday. ... Three Jets, D Dustin Byfuglien, RW Blake Wheeler and D Mark Stuart are from Minnesota.