Jets’ late push against Wild falls short
ST. PAUL – Right now, the shoe is definitely on the other foot.
Last season, it was the Winnipeg Jets who dominated the season series with the Minnesota Wild, winning three of four meetings before eliminated their closest rival in five games during the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Right now, it’s the Wild who seem to be in control – at least when it comes to the final results.
The Jets had trouble finding their skating legs for two periods and despite pouring it on during the third, they’re now zero-for-three against the Wild this season after falling 3-2on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.
After exploding for 12 goals in two home games against Central Division opponents, the Jets were unable to finish off the clean sweep.
They understood this was going to be more of a grinding game, but they were unable to get much going offensively and had some issues finding their speed game during the first two periods.
But after falling behind three goals, the deficit was too much to overcome, despite a goal in the final minute of the second period and a push during the third.
Brandon Tanev and Mark Scheifele scored for the Jets, who slipped to 27-14-2 on the season and will face the Detroit Red Wings on Friday at Bell MTS Place.
Special teams were a major factor in this one.
Although the Wild were only one-for-two with the man-advantage, the Jets finished zero-for-four.
And after two of those successful penalty kills, the Wild scored less than a minute later – first to get on the board and then to extend the lead to 3-0.
Tanev scored with 40.2 seconds to go in the second period, establishing a career-high (nine) in the process.
Scheifele scored with the goalie pulled in favour of an extra attacker with 2:38 to play in the third period and his 24 goals tie him Patrik Laine for the team lead.
Connor Hellebuyck, making a seventh consecutive start, made 19 saves for the Jets, who face the Wild two more times this season.
Already without Dustin Byfuglien (ankle), the Jets were forced to play the bulk of the third period with only five defenceman after Tyler Myers was lost to an undisclosed injury.
Former Jets forward Matt Hendricks is gone to another organization, but he isn’t forgotten.
Maurice says Hendricks left a lasting impression, even if he only spent one season with the Jets.
“He did that for so many of our young players. Even some of the phrases that are used on the bench and some of the terms he came up with, we use. He had an impact,” said Maurice. “He just fit the room and the he fit the personality of the players. He was gregarious and certainly a real strong mentor for those young players. We got full value of having (Hendricks) with us.
“It was exactly what we needed.”
Hendricks, 37, actually reached out to Brendan Lemieux earlier this season after the Jets winger received a two-game suspension for his illegal check to the head of Florida Panthers centre Vincent Trocheck, noting it was a teachable moment for the young forward.
“Absolutely. It is. You’ve got to take every situation at this level and try to learn from it. All of your experiences,” said Hendricks. “But Brendan is the type of player that needs to play on that line. He’s a physical player. He plays with a lot of energy. And if he doesn’t do that, he won’t have a job. So it’s important for him to walk a line but play on the smart side, the safe side.”
Once Lemieux returned to the lineup in November, it took him a while to get back to playing a physical game, which is natural for a guy coming off his first NHL suspension.
“Oh it happens, yeah. When they start taking money out of your cheque every two weeks it buggers you up pretty bad,” said Hendricks. “You don’t want to be known as that guy. It hurts.”
Hendricks signed a one-year deal with the Wild this summer and he suited up in his 17th game of the season on Thursday.
“It’s been good. Being with my family, No. 1, has been outstanding,” said Hendricks. “Always fun to play in front of friends and family, for sure. My parents make it to a lot of games now. My sister and her family have made it to a few games, so that’s great. You want to be winning more games and you want to be playing a bit more, that’s kind of the selfish personal side of it. But we’ve got a great group of guys in here, we’re for the most part a pretty veteran team, so I’ve really enjoyed this opportunity. The good outweighs the bad.”
Hendricks has nothing but fond memories from his time with the Jets organization.
“Oh, one of my favourite seasons ever,” said Hendricks, who had five goals and 13 points in 60 games for the Jets and then appeared in five of 17 playoff games. “To make it as far as we did, to be going into the start of the season in training camp with the fans and the media’s expectations of us and what kind of a team are we going to be this year, we really gelled, we came together as a group. It’s incredible what can happen when a team does that. We were proof of it last season.”
Hendricks isn’t surprised to see the Jets near the top of the Western Conference standings once again.
“No, with the outstanding play of Connor Hellebuyck last season and it’s continued this season,” said Hendricks. “They’ve got so much scoring depth and a great defensive core there. They have the make-up to be a strong team, especially in this division.”
Jets forward Mason Appleton got his day off to a strong start, taking home $100 USD from longtime Minneapolis radio host – and voice of the Minnesota Vikings Paul Allen – on something he calls VOX in the box.
Allen has a microphone set up in the penalty box during the morning skate and if an opposition player is able to shoot the puck through the small hole, he takes home the cash.
Allen has been doing the promotion during his radio show for nine seasons and Appleton is just the third player to hit the target.
Jets defenceman Ben Chiarot accomplished the feat last season and the only other player to do it is Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar.
It’s probably a good thing Allen had no idea Appleton is a Packers fan from Green Bay.
Author: Ken Wiebe