All of the (good) RFAs have been re-signed, the Carolina Hurricanes keep making moves, 2020 Winter Classic logos have been revealed and DTFR’s season previews conclude with the Central Division.
Everyone, this is your ghost writer speaking. Connor is preoccupied this week, so I’m taking over to tell you about this humdinger of a matchup for this week’s DTFR Game of the Week.
And also to apologize for not having a cool looking table recapping every night of this week’s action leading up to Sunday’s main attraction in the Western Conference as the Minnesota Wild (36-33-9 record, 81 points, 6th in the Central Division) pay a visit to the Arizona Coyotes (37-33-8, 82 points, 4th in the Pacific Division).
Gila River Arena will be in the spotlight as the Top-2 teams outside of the Western Conference wild card race go head-to-head with the chance to help one of the teams currently in control of a wild card position clinch a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If Arizona loses in any form on Sunday against the Wild, the Dallas Stars will punch their ticket to the 2019 postseason leaving one final spot remaining in the Western Conference.
Though the Winnipeg Jets (94 points in 78 games played) lead the Nashville Predators (94 points in 79 GP) and St. Louis Blues (92 points in 78 GP) in the Central Division and the Calgary Flames (103 points in 78 GP) lead the San Jose Sharks (97 points in 78 GP) and Vegas Golden Knights (91 points in 79 GP) in the Pacific Division, the First Round matchups across the board in the Western Conference are still to be determined.
The Central Division is a tight race with the current three divisional playoff position holders battling down the wire for the regular season divisional title.
The Pacific Division can be clinched by the Flames on Sunday if they defeat the Sharks in any fashion.
For Minnesota, a win on Sunday would leapfrog the Wild over the Coyotes in the wild card race and put them two points behind the Colorado Avalanche (85 points in 78 GP) for the last playoff berth in the West.
For Arizona, a win on Sunday would provide the Coyotes with a little cushion over the Wild and leave Arizona trailing the Avalanche by one point in the wild card race.
The Coyotes lost to Colorado in their most recent game, 3-2, in overtime on Friday. The Wild defeated the Golden Knights, 3-2, on Friday.
Both teams enter Sunday knowing they control their own destiny in the immediate future as the Avalanche are off until Monday night’s battle in St. Louis.
Colorado doesn’t have an easy road ahead, however, despite their 6-0-1 record in their last seven outings– the Avs have four games remaining in six nights, including one in St. Louis on Monday and a home game against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday prior to hosting the Jets on Thursday and closing out the regular season in San Jose next Saturday.
Minnesota (3-6-1 in their last 10 games) enters Sunday on the heels of a, 3-2, win over Vegas on Friday after posting a 2-6-1 record in their previous nine games.
Arizona (3-4-3 in their last 10 games) has lost six out their last seven games and went 1-3-3 in that span, but has a 9-1-1 record in their last 11 home games.
The Wild and Coyotes are tied in the season series, 1-1-0, through two meetings at Xcel Energy Center prior to Sunday. Minnesota picked up a, 2-1, win on Oct. 16th against Arizona before losing, 4-3, on Nov. 27th to the Coyotes.
Minnesota is 13-3-3 in their last 19 games against the Coyotes and enters the Grand Canyon State to face a familiar foe.
Darcy Kuemper (25-19-8 record, 2.39 goals against average, .922 save percentage in 52 GP) was originally drafted by the Wild 161st overall in the 2009 NHL Draft and will make his 20th consecutive start for the Coyotes in the crease.
Kuemper stopped 26 out of 28 shots faced in Arizona’s, 2-1, loss to Minnesota on Oct. 16th and is 14-6-3 in his last 23 starts.
Since Jan. 6th, he has a 20-8-5 record with a 2.14 GAA and .929 SV% while the Coyotes have been battling injuries.
Nick Schmaltz signed a seven-year extension with the club on Saturday and remains out with a lower body injury, while Antti Raanta (lower body– out for the season) and Kyle Capobiano (lower body) will also be unavailable for Rick Tocchet‘s lineup on Sunday.
Arizona’s hard charging offense has scored nine goals in their last seven games and is led by Clayton Keller (14-32–46 totals) this season. Defenseman, Oliver Ekman-Larsson (14-29–43 totals) is the only other Coyote with more than 40 points and has seven goals and eight assists since Feb. 21st– tied for the 2nd most by a defender in the league during that span.
Tampa Bay Lightning blue liner, Victor Hedman, has 17 points to Ekman-Larsson’s 15 points in that span.
Coyotes third liner, Alex Galchenyuk, leads his club in goals with 17 this season.
Across the ice, Devan Dubnyk (30-27-6, 2.57 GAA, .912 SV% in 65 GP) is expected to get the start for the Wild as Ryan Donato has seven points (two goals, five assists) in his past seven games for Minnesota.
Boudreau perhaps put it best following Friday night’s win in Las Vegas for Sunday’s preview against Arizona– “I think whoever loses is probably for sure out.”
It’s hard not to agree with that sentiment given both teams will have three games remaining on the schedule after Sunday wraps up and the loser will have an almost insurmountable deficit in the wild card standings.
That said, look for the red-hot on home ice Coyotes to keep Minnesota down in what’s sure to be a wild matchup as the two teams tempt fate.
Tune into the matchup on ESPN+ at 5 p.m. ET.
Don’t look now, but the Boston Bruins are on a five-game winning streak after shutting out the Minnesota Wild, 4-0, Tuesday night at TD Garden. The Bruins haven’t lost since Dec. 29th’s, 3-2, comeback win in overtime against the Sabres in Buffalo.
Boston improved to 15-3-2 when scoring first this season, as Danton Heinen recorded the game’s first goal. Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk and Patrice Bergeron each added goals of their own in the Bruins’ win.
Tuukka Rask (12-8-2 record, 2.43 goals against average, .920 save percentage in 22 games played) made 24 saves on 24 shots against for the win and his first shutout of the season.
Rask’s last shutout came on March 17, 2018 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tuesday night’s shutout was the 42nd of his career.
Alex Stalock (5-4-0, 2.75 GAA, .894 SV% in 11 GP) stopped 23 out of 27 shots faced for an .852 SV% in the loss for the Wild.
The B’s improved to 25-14-4 (54 points) on the season and remain 3rd in the Atlantic Division– two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2nd place and two points ahead of the 4th place Sabres.
Minnesota fell to 21-18-3 (45 points) and remained 5th place in the Central Division.
Bruce Cassidy left his lines alone for Boston with Joakim Nordstrom (non-displaced fibular fracture) and Charlie McAvoy (lower body) still out of the lineup due to injury and Colby Cave, as well as Steven Kampfer, as the only healthy scratches Tuesday.
Moore fired a shot that Heinen tipped in past Stalock at 5:23 to give Boston the, 1-0, lead with Moore (6) and Krug (23) tallying the assists.
Moments later, Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara, cut a rut to the penalty box after being penalized for interference, having bumped into Minnesota’s Jordan Greenway without the puck at 7:00 of the first period.
The Bruins successfully killed off Chara’s minor infraction and momentum further swung to their side as almost a few minutes after the Wild’s power play failed, Marchand was in the right place at the right time.
Moore worked the puck over to Bergeron, who then fired a shot that went wide of the goal and caromed off the end-boards to Marchand as No. 63 in black-and-gold crashed the net.
Marchand (16) put home the rebound as Stalock was moving a step behind across the crease, giving Moore his first two-point game in a Bruins uniform.
Bergeron (23) and Moore (7) were credited with the assists at 11:29.
Late in the opening frame, the B’s and Wild swapped minor penalties with Kevan Miller going to the box first for holding Nino Niederreiter at 16:16, then Minnesota’s Eric Staal following up with a tripping minor against Rask at 17:42.
After an abbreviated 4-on-4 sequence, the Bruins went on an abbreviated power play that yielded their third goal of the period and first of two power play goals on the night.
Bergeron fired a shot towards the goal that deflected off of DeBrusk’s (14) chest and went past Stalock to give Boston a three-goal lead.
Bergeron (24) and Marchand (30) had the assists on DeBrusk’s goal at 19:15 of the first period and the B’s led, 3-0.
DeBrusk has four goals and one assist (five points) in his six games since returning from concussion-like symptoms.
Entering the first intermission, Boston was ahead by three goals and led in shots on goal, 15-6. Minnesota led in blocked shots (4-1), giveaways (5-2) and hits (13-9) after 20 minutes, while the Bruins led in face-off win percentage (67-33).
Both teams had two takeaways each through one period as the Wild went 0/2 on the power play and the B’s went 1/1.
Early in the second period, Zach Parise tripped Bergeron just past the six-minute mark of the middle frame and the Bruins went back on the power play.
Less than 20 seconds later, Bergeron (14) got his revenge on the scoreboard, redirecting a shot past Stalock for the power play goal at 6:24 of the second period.
Marchand (31) and Krug (24) had the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the Bruins led, 4-0.
Almost midway through the second period, with the pace in play rather deflated, Moore was charged with interference against Luke Kunin, resulting in the Wild’s final power play of the night and last chance to muster anything resembling the commencement of a comeback.
Minnesota did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
Through 40 minutes of play at TD Garden, the Bruins led, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 20-18, in shots on goal. Minnesota actually outshot Boston, 12-5, in the second period alone, but the Wild couldn’t get past the brick wall of Rask in Boston’s crease.
The B’s led in blocked shots (13-5) and face-off win% (59-41) after two periods. Minnesota led in takeaways (6-3), giveaways (8-5) and hits (23-16), while finishing the night 0/3 on the power play.
The Bruins went 2/2 on the skater advantage Tuesday night.
There were no penalties and there was no scoring in the third period from either club as the Bruins secured the, 4-0, victory and finished the night leading in shots on goal (27-24), blocked shots (18-9), giveaways (12-11) and face-off win% (54-46).
The Wild finished the night leading in hits (28-21).
Boston hosts the Washington Capitals this Thursday night at the Garden before traveling to Scotiabank Arena for a battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night.
The Bruins return home for a Monday night (Jan. 14th) rivalry matchup with the Montreal Canadiens, before traveling to Philadelphia for the first of back-to-back games on the road at Wells Fargo Center against the Flyers next Wednesday (Jan. 16th) and at home against the St. Louis Blues next Thursday (Jan. 17th).
They’ll play one more game after that against the New York Rangers at home next Saturday (Jan. 19th) before the All-Star break and bye week begins for Boston.
More on the Arizona Coyotes latest debacle with Seattle expansion looming, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith did something never done before, the Calgary Flames rise in the Western Conference and the St. Louis Blues dismal season. Bob Murray and the Anaheim Ducks made a few moves– signing Murray to an extension, claiming Chad Johnson off waivers and a minor trade.
Plus, Nick and Connor review the last 15 years of first round picks by the Pittsburgh Penguins and do a deep dive on their future and what it might look like.
45-26-11, 101 points, 3rd in the Central Division
Lost in First Round to WPG, 4-1
Subtractions: F Patrick Cannone (signed, DEL), F Matt Cullen (signed with PIT), F Kurtis Gabriel (signed with NJ), D Alex Grant (signed, KHL), D Dylan Labbe (signed with Wichita Thunder, ECHL), D Viktor Loov (signed, KHL), G Steve Michalek (signed, Austria), F Zack Mitchell (signed with LA), D Zac Palmquist (signed with Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL), G Niklas Svedberg (signed, SHL), F Daniel Winnik (signed to a PTO with BOS), G Adam Vay (signed, Kazakhstan)
Still Unsigned: F Adam Gilmour, D Kyle Quincey
Offseason Analysis: Despite a late-season decline, Devan Dubnyk managed to backstop the Minnesota Wild to a third place finish in the Central Division standings– locking up their sixth consecutive postseason appearance and guaranteeing a First Round matchup with the Winnipeg Jets.
Unfortunately for the Wild, they had a First Round matchup with the Winnipeg Jets. Oh and Minnesota’s head coach is Bruce Boudreau, so everyone knows about the playoff curse surrounding him by now, right?
Kidding aside, Minnesota lasted five games against Winnipeg when they realistically should’ve been swept by the jumpin’ Jets.
After nine seasons of being in charge, Chuck Fletcher was fired and Paul Fenton was hired as Minnesota’s new General Manager.
Fenton, of course, served as the assistant GM for the Nashville Predators (2006-18) and had been familiar with Wild owner, Craig Leipold– given their two seasons of overlap as employee and employer in Nashville from 2006-08 before Leipold sold the Predators and bought Minnesota.
Additionally, Fenton was highly-touted as the best “available” prospective General Manager that was potentially on the market for going big time and moving up in the rankings. Under the guidance of David Poile for over a decade with the Preds, Fenton is more than ready for his new role with the Wild.
Unfortunately, he’s inheriting a mess. Yes, even though the Wild have made the playoffs six seasons in a row now, they haven’t gotten past the Second Round.
Plus Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are under contract for forever (slight exaggeration) and both have an injury history (Parise’s career was nearly over and Suter’s going to miss the start of this season). They’re also on the books at over $7.500 million per season each with no movement clauses.
Parise, 34, and Suter, 33, aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, unless someone’s willing to eat some cap hit.
Minnesota has about $1.770 million in cap space with seven pending free agents (including two RFAs) next offseason. Eric Staal is one of them and he’s already indicated he’s willing to be more than patient while the Wild figure themselves out.
Staal’s currently making $3.500 million per season and reached the 40-goal plateau last season in a rejuvenating 76-point year (42 goals, 34 assists). At 33, he’s not going to get any younger, but he’s still a vital component of the roster with at least a couple more decent seasons left in him. Perhaps he’ll be the next ageless wonder, even.
Eric Fehr was given a second chance after the San Jose Sharks acquired his services from the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and he impressed the Wild enough to sign him to a one-year deal. Either that or Minnesota found their perfect placeholder while a) youth develops and b) they figure out how to free up cap space next offseason.
While the performance on the ice is to be determined– what with an underrated goaltender in Dubnyk and a solid blue line now that Matt Dumba is locked up through the 2022-23 season– this season will be a season in transition, no doubt, for the front office.
Perhaps Boudreau’s next to go after Fletcher’s roster building couldn’t get the Wild over the Second Round hump, does Leipold start pointing fingers behind the bench? Is it only natural that a new General Manager bring in their own plan for the bench to go along with the personalities on their roster?
It’s a make or break season for Minnesota, whether anyone wants to accept it or not.
Offseason Grade: C-
Hiring the best “GM prospect” as your new General Manager was Minnesota’s biggest move this offseason. Well, that and re-signing Matt Dumba to a friendly long-term deal worth $6.000 million per season through 2022-23.
But Paul Fenton’s got plenty of headaches ahead, regardless of team performance on the ice and that’s where the navigation of this franchise gets tricky. Besides, none of the free agents added to the roster this offseason scream “steal of the century”, though signing Andrew Hammond as a third-string goalie doesn’t hurt– goaltending depth is all too often over-looked.
Seven different goal scorers and yet another Marc-Andre Fleury shutout powered the Vegas Golden Knights to a 7-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks on home ice Thursday night in Game 1 of their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round matchup.
The T-Mobile Arena crowd was delighted to Fleury’s third shutout of the 2018 postseason as the Vegas goaltender turned aside all 33 shots faced for the win. San Jose’s Martin Jones made eight saves on 13 shots against for a .615 save percentage in 23:26 time on ice before being replaced by backup, Aaron Dell, in the loss.
Dell made 19 saves on 21 shots against for a .905 SV% in 36:18 TOI.
San Jose gave up four goals to the Anaheim Ducks over the course of their entire First Round series (four games). The Golden Knights scored four goals on the Sharks in the first 12 minutes of Game 1 in the Second Round.
Jonathan Marchessault took a high-stick from Tomas Hertl and Vegas went on the power play 63 seconds into the game. While the Golden Knights didn’t convert on the man advantage, they took complete control of the game’s momentum fast and early.
Brayden McNabb was responsible for the series clinching goal in Los Angeles against the Kings and the Vegas defender was responsible for firing the first shot on goal that would eventually end up in the twine in the Second Round.
The fans at T-Mobile Arena didn’t get to sit back down for long after Eakin’s goal as the Golden Knights struck again 26 seconds later on a goal from Erik Haula (2).
Alex Tuch rushed in the offensive zone and dropped a pass back to Haula who got a quick release past Jones on the far side to make it 2-0 Golden Knights at 4:57. Tuch (2) and James Neal (2) were credited with the assists on Haula’s goal.
Having created their own 3-on-2 in the offensive zone thanks to good, quick, short passes, Marchessault (1) fired one past Jones to give Vegas a three-goal lead, 3-0, at 6:02 of the first period. That’s three goals in a span of 1:31, mind you. Reilly Smith (4) picked up the only assist on Marchessault’s first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Sharks earned their first power play of the night after Tuch got a stick up high on San Jose blueliner, Justin Braun. They did not convert on the man advantage.
Kevin Labanc was sent to the sin bin at 9:26 of the first period for hooking Tuch. Brent Burns shortly followed Labanc’s ruts to the penalty box with a minor penalty of his own for delay of game after he sent the puck clear over the glass at 10:14.
San Jose killed off Labanc’s penalty, but was quickly thwarted of attempting to kill off the remainder of Burns’s minor as Tuch (2) broke free of the Sharks defense and shot one past Jones’s blocker to give the Golden Knights the 4-0 lead on the power play.
William Karlsson (2) and Smith (5) had the primary and secondary assists on Tuch’s power play goal at 11:43.
Smith received a minor penalty for goaltender interference at 12:09 of the first period and the Sharks went on their first 5-on-3 man advantage at 13:29 when former Shark turned Golden Knight via waivers this season, Ryan Carpenter, tripped up Burns.
San Jose did not score on the ensuing power play.
Through one period, the Golden Knights led, 4-0. Meanwhile, San Jose led in shots on goal, 17-9. Vegas led in blocked shots (15-2), hits (22-13) and giveaways (5-2). The Sharks were 0/3 and the Golden Knights were 1/3 on the power play after 20 minutes of play.
Shea Theodore (2) opened scoring in the second period after receiving a cross ice pass from Smith and redirecting the puck past Jones. Smith (6) and Marchessault (3) had the assists at 3:28 of the second period.
As a result of Vegas’s newfound, 5-0, lead, Peter DeBoer replaced his goaltender, Martin Jones, with San Jose’s backup goalie, Aaron Dell. The relief appearance was Dell’s Stanley Cup Playoffs career debut.
Jon Merrill caught Logan Couture with a high-stick and the Golden Knights were shorthanded at 6:10. The Sharks did not score on the ensuing power play.
Eric Fehr caught Theodore with a high-stick of his own about a couple of minutes later and Vegas was not able to convert on the ensuing man advantage.
Late in the second period, Timo Meier (tripping) and Chris Tierney (holding) were penalized about four minutes apart. The Golden Knights did not score on either power play, despite James Neal having thought he scored— the goal was immediately waved off and reviewed, as it appeared Neal had punched the puck into the net with his hand.
As such, the call on the ice was not reversed.
Vegas went into the second intermission with the lead on the scoreboard, 5-0, and trailing in shots on goal, 25-24. The Golden Knights led in blocked shots (18-11), hits (36-23) and takeaways (8-4) after 40 minutes of play. San Jose was 0/4 on the power play and Vegas was 1/6.
Sharks captain, Joe Pavelski, was guilty of interfering with McNabb 68 seconds into the third period and the Golden Knights found themselves going on the power play for the seventh time on the night.
Just as quick as Pavelski was released from the box, the San Jose forward found himself going back to the box as he let the best of him go undisciplined— slashing Vegas defender, Nate Schmidt at 3:25 of the third period.
Evander Kane tangled with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare after the whistle and delivered a swift cross check to the Vegas forward’s face resulting in a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for Kane that will undoubtedly result in at least a hearing with the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety (given the precedent set by Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey cross checking Minnesota’s Eric Staal in the head in the First Round).
It didn’t take long for Vegas to capitalize on the ensuing 5-on-3 advantage as Colin Miller (1) shot a one-timer past Dell to give the Golden Knights a 6-0 lead.
Karlsson (4) and Marchessault (4) had the assists on the goal at 4:32 of the third period and the Golden Knights’s power play continued.
At the goal line from just to the side of the net, Neal (2) swung around in front of the goal and beat Dell from point blank to give Vegas yet another power play goal and increase the lead, 7-0.
Perron (3) and Haula (1) notched the assists on the point-after-touchdown goal at 8:09 of the third period.
The Golden Knights had matched their entire offensive output against the Los Angeles Kings in the First Round in less than 60 minutes against San Jose.
At the final horn, Vegas won, 7-0, and grabbed the 1-0 series lead in what was Fleury’s 13th career postseason shutout.
The Golden Knights led the final shots on goal total, 34-33, as well as blocked shots (26-13), hits (48-33), giveaways (10-8) and faceoff win percentage (52-48). San Jose went 0/5 on the power play and Vegas went 3/10 on the night.
Game 2 is Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena, where the home team, Golden Knights, look to go up, 2-0, in the series. Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC. Fans in Canada can follow along on CBC, SN or TVAS.
Nick and Connor discuss Bill Peters’s future as a head coach, what the Calgary Flames should do, who should take home the Vezina Trophy and Selke Trophy, as well as revisit the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights advancing to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In the midst of a Minnesota snowstorm, the hometown crowd watched their hopes all but buried as the Wild were simply unable to overcome their laundry list of injuries and a suffocating Winnipeg defense.
Already without Ryan Suter, the Wild took another hammering blow late in Game 3 when Zach Parise got sandwiched by Mark Scheifele and Ben Chiarot and suffered a fractured sternum (side note: ouch) that rules him out of the rest of the playoffs. Parise’s spot in the lineup would be filled by Tyler Ennis, seeing his first NHL playoff action since 2011 when the diminutive forward was a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
Winnipeg was not without their own injury problems, losing Tyler Myers after an awkward collision with Marcus Foligno in Game 3. Though not as key an element to his team as Parise is to the Wild, Myers still eats a lot of quality minutes on the Winnipeg blueline. Young Tucker Poolman would taste his first ever playoff action as he filled in for the towering Myers.
The game started much the same as it ended…and middle-d…you know what I mean.
Tight checking, excellent stick position, and a near-complete lack of offensive chances were a theme in this one. Not to say that there wasn’t action, as from the opening puck drop the two teams continued the series’ main theme: That is, both teams spent every shift actively trying to kill each other. Arguably 2018’s roughest series so far, it isn’t even so much the quantity of hits we’ve seen in this one, but moreso that every hit we do see is thrown with seemingly as much force as it can possibly be delivered with. No great wonder why so many players are nursing injuries.
Other than a brief flurry by Winnipeg that Devan Dubnyk answered with three or four quality stops about 8:30 into the frame, the opening 10 minutes had little to speak of in terms of scoring opportunities.
Finally it was Minnesota who started to find some traction, first coming from an unlikely source in their fourth line of Foligno – Joel Eriksson Ek – Daniel Winnik, who deployed an effective dump and chase strategy, sending two forecheckers in hard and fast to get the Winnipeg defense in deep, then working the puck free to a second wave usually of the third forward and a pinching defenseman. All Minnesota lines adopted the strategy for a solid few minutes in the late first, and all had decent chances, including Nino Niederreiter feeding Eric Staal right in the goal mouth, only to have an excellent backhand chance waffled away by Connor Hellebuyck. Shortly after, Minnesota’s sustained pressure forced the Jets into a penalty, and on the resulting power play Josh Morrissey got away with an egregious cross-check to the face/neck of Staal, who lay on the ice for a few seconds before slowly making his was to the bench all while play continued around him. The Minnesota crowd was…less than pleased.
To continue their displeasure, shortly after the penalty concluded, it would be Morrissey starting a breakout to Scheifele, who played a give-and-go with Kyle Connor beautifully, taking Connor’s drop pass in the low slot and ripping a snapshot through traffic and over Dubnyk with just 28 seconds left to play, sending the Minnesota crowd into a symphony of boos so loud I think P.K. Subban actually might have heard them.
Minnesota ended the period leading 10-7 in shots, but down on the board. Shot blocking was a major theme of the first period, and the game, really. It also contributed to the growing list of banged up players, as both Mathew Dumba and Dustin Byfuglien left the ice at different points in the first because of shot blocks.
The second started with a bang, as on the opening shift the Wild jumped on a turnover by Jacob Trouba and flew up the ice on a three-on-one lead by Mikael Granlund. #64 in green showed Hellebucyk shot all the way, but with just inches to spare sent a pass across the crease to Dumba who looked to have a sure goal, before the glove of Hellebucyk robbed him blind. A few minutes later Jonas Brodin sprung Niederreiter on a breakaway with an unbelievable stretch pass (that frankly I have no idea how Nino even managed to corral on his stick) but just before he could get the shot off a desperate Morrissey poked the puck off of his stick and clear of danger.
Dubnyk would see little action of serious consequence in the middle frame, a few whacks at a centered puck in the blue paint by Adam Lowry the only real threat of the second 20 minutes. The Wild did, however, lose Granlund for a few minutes in the middle of the frame, but he would return to finish the game. Also of note was Dumba taking a run at Byfuglien, which worked out about as well as you’d expect.
Late in the period Brodin nearly played hero himself, absolutely dancing a Winnipeg defender at the blueline and walking in to label a wrist shot for the high blocker side of Hellebucyk, but the newly-elected Vezina candidate had the answer, as was the case all night.
By the end of the second the Wild lead 20-19 on the shot clock, but struggled to find room to construct any serious chances.
The Jets took the attack to Minnesota for stretches of the third, attempting to prevent them from even having the chance to tie the game. An early chance by Joe Morrow found a goal post, and later Scheifele found one of his own, which created some chaos around the Wild goal that Dubnyk had to tidy up. Laine then got a breakaway opportunity in the dying minutes of the third that was harassed just enough by Spurgeon to allow Dubnyk to poke the puck away before any harm could come.
It took Minnesota until just under two minutes remaining to gain enough solid puck possession to get Dubnyk off, but the extra attacker still couldn’t help them solve the labyrinth that was Winnipeg’s defensive scheme, and Scheifele buried the 2-0 dagger with 10 seconds remaining to seal Minnesota’s fate.
Outshot 30-28, the Jets took the first road victory of the series, giving them the chance to win the first playoff series in franchise history in front of what will surely be a raucous Winnipeg Whiteout crowd on Friday night (DTFR coverage brought to you again by yours truly).
How Minnesota finds a way to extend this series is beyond me. The injuries to key players just seem to be too much for them to overcome. They’ll need nothing short of a miracle to make it back to Xcel Energy Center for Game 6.
Minnesota’s offense exploded in a four-goal second period and the Wild defeated the Winnipeg Jets, 6-2, on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center.
Devan Dubnyk had 29 saves on 31 shots against for a .935 save percentage in the win, while Connor Hellebuyck stopped 16 shots out of 22 shots faced for a .727 SV% in 40:00 time on ice in the loss. Jets backup goaltender, Steve Mason, turned aside all seven shots he faced in the third period.
It didn’t take long for the action to get going in Game 3 as Minnesota defenseman, Matt Dumba, was sent to the penalty box just 43 seconds into the first period for slashing Jets captain, Blake Wheeler. Winnipeg had a couple great looks on the power play, but was unable to convert on their first power play opportunity of the night.
A few minutes later, Matt Cullen, was taking the skate of shame to the sin bin for slashing Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry, much to the dismay of the fans in the building who all disagreed with the call. Cullen himself was not pleased, but the refs set the standard for the night— nothing was going unnoticed.
Almost a minute into their second power play of the night, Wheeler (1) had the puck near the hash-mark to the left of Dubnyk and fired a wrist shot that deflected off of Wild blue liner, Jonas Brodin, and beat Dubnyk’s short side and gave the Jets a 1-0 lead on just his third career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.
Wheeler’s power play goal came at 4:50 of the first period and was assisted by Dustin Byfuglien (3) and Patrik Laine (2). With the assist, Laine now has points in each of his first three career postseason games in what was also the third consecutive game where Winnipeg scored first.
Jets defenseman, Ben Chiarot, delivered a cross check to Eric Staal and was assessed a minor penalty at 7:26. Shortly thereafter, after Hellebuyck had frozen the puck for a faceoff, already shorthanded, Adam Lowry roughed up Minnesota’s Jason Zucker.
Lowry was handed a minor penalty for roughing and the Wild went from a regular 5-on-4 power play to a two-man advantage with about 1:21 remaining on the first penalty. The Wild did not pass up on the 5-on-3 opportunity.
Mikael Granlund pinched in from the point on the power play to keep the play alive, sending the puck across the ice, where Mikko Koivu eventually ended up with it on his stick. Koivu quickly fired a shot, but Hellebuyck made the save, though the puck rebounded. That’s when Granlund (1) was able to pocket the loose puck in the twine as he was crashing the net to tie the game, 1-1.
The goal, Granlund’s first of the postseason, was assisted by Koivu (3) and Staal (1) at 9:47 of the first period.
Play settled down for a bit until Chiarot cross-checked Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle and was sent to the box with 2:59 remaining in the period. It only took 49 seconds on the power play for Zach Parise (3) to convert on the man advantage and give the Wild their first lead of the night, 2-1.
Koivu set up the play after quickly realizing where Parise was positioned, feigning a shot on net when in actually firing a hard pass towards the goal for Parise— who had his stick on the ice the whole time— to redirect past Hellebuyck. Koivu (4) and Jonas Brodin (2) picked up the assists on Parise’s goal.
In the closing minute of the period, Josh Morrissey centered the puck to Kyle Connor for a redirect on Dubnyk, but Dubnyk denied the Jets of any follow up chances, having absorbed the puck and covered it up.
Regardless, after the whistle, Dumba and Mark Scheifele got involved in a bit of an exchange that resulted in Dumba going to the box for roughing at 19:27.
After 20 minutes of play, the Minnesota Wild led 2-1 on the scoreboard and 13-7 in shots on goal. Minnesota also led in blocked shots (6-5), hits (9-7) and giveaways (4-2), meanwhile Winnipeg led in takeaways (2-0). The Jets were 1/3 on the power play in the first period and the Wild were 2/3 on the man advantage in the opening frame.
Nick Seeler opened up the second period at Xcel Energy Center by beating Hellebuyck and ringing the goalpost. Shortly thereafter, Minnesota scored anyway.
Joel Eriksson Ek set up in front of the goal after passing the puck to Daniel Winnik, who lobbed it over to Matt Dumba. Dumba (1) fired a shot past a screened Hellebuyck and into the net to give the Wild a 3-1 lead. The goal was Dumba’s first playoff goal since 2015 and Winnik (1) and Eriksson Ek (1) picked up the assists.
Eriksson Ek’s assist was his first career playoff point.
A few minutes later, Tyler Myers (2) and the Jets made it a close game after Myers found a loose puck with a clear path to the goal and sent a cannon of a slap shot over the right pad of Devan Dubnyk to make it a 3-2 game. Myers now has goals in back-to-back games, but would leave the game later in the second period with what appeared to be a lower body injury. He did not return.
After Myers’s goal, the Wild took a string of penalties, first for Parise tripping Wheeler at 7:23 and then for Coyle holding Winnipeg defenseman, Jacob Trouba at 10:24.
Winnipeg was not able to amount anything on the scoreboard on either power play and the Wild kept rolling along.
Staal (1) notched his first of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs at 14:40 of the second period when Granlund used the boards to snag the puck in the offensive zone, then send a spin-o-rama pass to Staal for a one-timer that beat Hellebuyck. Granlund (2) and Dumba (1) had the assists on the goal that made it 4-2, Minnesota.
Twenty seconds later, Boston University product and U.S. Olympian, Jordan Greenway (1) scored his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal to make it 5-2, and the barrage of offense for the Wild continued. Matt Cullen (1) and Nick Seeler (1) had the assists on Greenway’s first NHL goal in both regular season and postseason play.
Marcus Foligno (1) kept the trend of first career postseason goals going as he scored a few minutes after Greenway made it 5-2. Foligno’s goal came at 18:23 of the second period and made it 6-2, Wild. Jared Spurgeon (1) and Seeler (2) had the assists as Minnesota completely dominated every action on the ice.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Wild led 6-2 on the scoreboard and 22-19 in shots on goal. Minnesota also led in blocked shots (15-5) and giveaways (6-4). Winnipeg led in hits (17-15) and takeaways (3-2) after two periods. The Jets were 1/5 on the power play and the Wild were 2/3 heading into the second intermission.
Winnipeg head coach, Paul Maurice, made a change in goal heading into the third period, replacing Connor Hellebuyck with Jets backup, Steve Mason, for the final frame of regulation.
There was no scoring, nor any penalties called in the third period and Bruce Boudreau’s Minnesota Wild played a conservative period, mixed with high caliber defense and some offensive chances.
Minnesota held on to a 6-2 win in Game 3, cutting Winnipeg’s series lead in half (2-1), and forcing at least a Game 5. The Jets outshot the Wild 31-29 after 60 minutes of play, but Minnesota led in blocked shots (20-8) and faceoff win percentage (52-48).
Winnipeg finished the game leading in hits 26-19 and finished the night 1/5 on the power play. The Wild finished the night 2/3 on the man advantage.
Game 4 is set for Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center where the Wild will look to tie the series, 2-2. Puck drop is expected a little after 8:00 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune in on CNBC, while Canadian fans can get their fill on Sportsnet and TVAS2.