You know you’re back in the NHL when you’re involved in a rivalry. Well it looks like the Winnipeg Jets have found their new arch-rivals in the Minnesota Wild. And it makes sense.
Minnesota is the closest city to Winnipeg in terms of geography. Both cities are hockey mad. And both teams are young and full of potential. Tonight was the first meeting and only meeting between the two clubs. Next year however both will be in the same conference and will face each other as many as 6 times next season.
But let’s focus on the here and now. The Jets and Wild played a tough, intense, emotional game tonight in which the Jets prevailed 2-1 to snap the Wild’s 7 game winning streak in front of 15,004 rabid fans at the MTS Centre.
The game itself started rather slowly as the two teams were feeling each other out and trying to get a handle on the game. No goals were scored and very few chances played to the Wild’s advantage as they prefer to slow down the game, especially on the road to quiet down the opposing fans.
The second period started with a physical tone as both teams used the body and played a much more aggressive game. The Jets got themselves into penalty trouble yet again and the Wild made them pay as Guillaume Latendresse banged home a rebound on a two-man advantage to give the Wild first blood.
The Jets however bounced back as Bryan Little had a terrific chance shorthanded but slid the puck just wide even though he had goalie Niklas Backstrom beat. A few minutes later, the Jets did equalize as Zach Bogosian scored his first of the season as he fired a shot from the point past a screened Backstrom. Both teams had chances the rest of the period but Backstorm and Ondrej Pavelec were solid and kept the game tied with timely saves.
The Wild came out strong in the third as they established a forecheck which pinned the Jets in their own zone. The Wild controlled the play but Pavelec was terrific in-goal and kept the Jets in it. As the period wore on the Jets began to free themselves from the Wild forecheck and started attacking the Wild end. It paid off with 5 minutes left in the third period as Bryan Little put home an errand Dustin Byfuglien shot into an open net just as a Jets power play came to an end.
There were tense moments at the end of the game as Bogosian nailed Pierre-Marc Bouchard from behind with a minute to giving the Wild a power play. Bogosian got a five-minute major and a game misconduct for that and he could face sheriff Brendan Shanahan where he could face supplemental discipline. The Wild had great chances but Pavelec made a miraculous save off of Kyle Brodziak to preserve the victory for the Jets.
The win extends the Jets home winning streak to 5 games and pull to within a point of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wild still remain first in the Western Conference with the best record in the NHL despite the loss.
A beauty tonight and next year brings many possibilities. Stay tuned.
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