Missed opportunities aside from their 3-2 loss in Game 1, the Minnesota Wild (0-1) can turn the momentum right around with a victory in Friday’s Game 2 against the Winnipeg Jets (1-0) north of the border.
The Wild took a 2-1 lead in quick fashion early in the third period after entering the final 20 minutes down 1-0. After that, some poor defensive play and turnovers led to the Jets tying the game on a Patrik Laine shot before Joe Morrow scored the game-winner with just over seven minutes to play on the way to their first-ever playoff victory.
The Jets outshot the Wild 40-20, and goaltender Devan Dubnyk played pretty well, especially with all the pressure and shooting gallery he faced late in the game. He tied his playoff career-high with 37 saves.
After the game, Wild players and coach Bruce Boudreau lamented the missed opportunity the Wild had to grab Game 1 away from a Jets team that looked beatable.
“I think we can be better,” said Eric Staal, the team’s leading scorer this season. “Obviously we got ourselves the lead in the third and from there, I think we took our foot off the gas a little bit.”
Let’s also make one thing clear: This is not a must-win game.
Yes, it would be ideal for the Wild to steal a game in Winnipeg and even the series at a game apiece before the series shifts to St. Paul for a pair of games. However, going into a 0-2 hole is not a death sentence, even if it makes the odds just a little worse. Games are only true must-win situations when the opponent has won three games in the best-of-seven series.
The Wild are 2-8 all-time in Game 2 of a playoff series. The last time they won Game 2 was in the first round in 2008 with an overtime victory over Colorado in St. Paul. Boudreau’s overall coaching record in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is just below .500 at 42-44 in nine trips to the postseason.
As if the 2-8 record wasn’t bad enough, the Jets came into the postseason playing very good hockey. Their last loss on home ice came back on Feb. 27 to Nashville. The Jets had the best home record in the NHL at 32-7-2; the last time a team with that honor didn’t advance past the first round of the playoffs? 2012 when Nashville beat Detroit in five games.
Matt Cullen’s goal in Game 1 made him the oldest Wild player in team history to score a goal in the playoffs. At 41 years and 160 days old, he passes Keith Carney, who scored a playoff goal for the Wild at age 38 in 2008.
Zach Parise gave the Wild a brief lead on Wednesday, jumping into a tie with Marian Gaborik for the most playoff goals in Wild history with 12. Parise is already the Wild leader in playoff assists (17), points (29) and shots on goal (106). He leads the roster with 72 career playoff points (33 goals).
Captain Mikko Koivu, who had an assist in Game 1, has appeared in all nine trips to the playoffs for the Wild. He leads the team with 51 playoff games played in a Wild sweater.
With the defense made a couple mistakes and a couple of the Wild’s top scorers didn’t factor into Game 1, the fourth line of Marcus Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek and Daniel Winnik made their presence felt with some hard hits and controlling the puck in the offensive zone.
- Luke Kunin – out for the playoffs with an ACL tear in left knee
- Ryan Suter – out for the playoffs with a right ankle fracture