Now we have a series as the Wild took care of business on home ice last night with an impressive 6-2 victory over the Jets.
As expected the Wild were significantly better on home ice as has been the case with them all season. Of course there were some additional circumstances that worked in the Wild's favor, in particular the travel issues that the Jets had to endure first on Saturday and then finally arriving at MSP on Sunday morning.
Certainly not ideal conditions in which to have to travel, but given the weather forecast, this was not a surprise storm.
Expect a much better Jets effort tomorrow night when the two teams lock horns again in St. Paul.
Last night's game took a totally different turn as it was made very clear from the outset that the officials were going to crack down calling the game much tighter than either of the first two games in Winnipeg.
It was obvious that the officiating team was on the lookout for the Wild and their overzealous use of the stick to defend the much bigger Jets. Both Matt Dumba and Matt Cullen were whistled for slashing minors before the game was 4 minutes old.
The next area of concern was the retaliation after the whistle and the message was clear that this was not going would not be tolerated either, and it would not be off-setting minors that would be called when the rough stuff occurred. Adam Lowry was sent to the box for roughing after the whistle with the Wild already on the powerplay, giving them a 2-man advantage. Matt Dumba was called for roughing after he tussled with Mark Scheifele by the Wild net, again after the whistle had blown.
The number of powerplays and the timing really upset the flow to the game and altered the line matching and original game plans. Fortunately for the Wild they were able to kill the final three Jets powerplays, and then take advantage of some opportunities of their own to put the game out of reach with a four goal second period.
Jordan Greenway once again had another strong game, and as expected he was a factor on the scoreboard. Greenway gave the Wild a three goal lead with his first NHL goal at the 15 minute mark of the 2nd period. That goal really broke the back of the Jets as it came just 20 seconds after Eric Staal had given the Wild back their two goal lead.
Marcus Foligno completed the scoring for the Wild with his first ever playoff goal as he redirected Jared Spurgeon's shot past Connor Hellebuyck.
Hellebuyck was chased after the second period giving up six goals on 22 Wild shots. While Devan Dubnyk turned aside 29 of the Jets 31 shots.
Dubnyk was a huge factor in the game as he made a number of key saves especially while the Wild were shorthanded twice during the second period with the game still a 1-goal contest. The save that Dubnyk made on Kyle Connor to preserve the Wild lead may very well have been the turning point in the game as the Jets were buzzing and if that goes in the game is tied, with all the momentum going in Winnipeg's favor.
Nick Seeler was again a tower of strength in the Wild defensive zone in addition to almost netting his first NHL goal as well on a shorthanded attempt with Daniel Winnik. Seeler is just the type of defenseman the Wild have been missing in playoffs past. Much has been said that the Wild defense is one of the better units in the league over the past several seasons, but that is based solely on their mobility and puck movement.
Mobility and puck moving skills are always a key element of the game for a team and their defensemen, but in the playoffs their needs to be a nastiness that exists to keep opponents honest in front of your own net. That is something the Wild have not had enough of, and now with Seeler and fellow rookie Carson Soucy the crease is better protected in front of Devan Dubnyk.
Tomorrow will be a totally different game than last night was. If the Wild are going to even the series they better be ready for the Jets best.
We have a series now and like any seven game series the longer it goes the greater the dislike grows amongst the combatants. The series takes on a life of it's own and the games within the games become more frequent and magnified.
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