For those who buy into the theory that teams can use up all their offense in one game, Tuesday’s Game 4 for the Minnesota Wild was a perfect follow-up example to that as the Winnipeg Jets shut out the Wild 2-0.
The Wild had six goal scorers in Game 3. Then they followed that up with a typical letdown in Game 4: Staying off the scoresheet. Now the Wild need to win 2-of-3 games, with two of those potential contests up in Winnipeg.
It’s most definitely an uphill battle.
“We just didn’t do enough to win,” said Matt Cullen. “We’ve got to turn our focus [to Friday.]”
A game after Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck gave up six goals in two periods before getting the hook, he stopped all 30 shots the Wild threw his way Tuesday. That’s quite the recovery for a goaltender that didn’t show any signs that his confidence was shaky.
The game was basically a 1-0 affair, with an empty-netter tallied with 10.7 ticks remaining in the game. Both goals were scored by Mark Scheifele. Both goals were scored in the final minute of a period.
The first goal hit the net 28 seconds before the first intermission, a deflating goal for the Wild in their home building that outshot the Jets 11-7 after the first frame. Scheifele put the puck up high just under the crossbar. The Jets have scored the first goal in each game this series.
The biggest play of the game though wasn’t about a scoring play. It was a crosscheck to the head that Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey laid on Eric Staal in open ice during a Wild power play late in the first period. As Staal struggled to get up, play went on around him without a whistle from the officials.
“[Morrissey’s] not even really looking at his stick at the time he does it,” Maurice said. “He’s about as clean a player as we’ve got.”
Not surprisingly, Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau saw the play differently and was still upset about it at his postgame news conference. He said in his postgame comments that he was still pretty heated about the topic and had to be careful about what he said.
“The refs looked at it, and they decided not to call it because we were already on the power play,” Boudreau said, matter-of-factly. “Cost us the game.”
The good news was that Staal returned for the rest of the game, even though he was slow to get up after the initial hit.
Unlike game three, where penalties were called left and right as the officials tried to keep the physical part of the game in check, play went on. The Wild went 0 for 2 on the power play Tuesday; the Jets were 0 for 1.
The Wild had a few chances to score, with perhaps the best one coming early in the second. Matt Dumba took a shot at an open net on a 2-on-1 play but was robbed with the glove of Hellebuyck.
Nino Niederreiter also had a breakaway chance but was stripped of the puck before he could get a shot off. It was Morrissey who took the puck away.
“He should be out of the game,” Boudreau said, going back to the Morrissey hit on Staal. “[The officials] were looking right at it, and they told us they didn’t see it.”
Controversy aside, the Wild still didn’t find a way to score. Sure, they were missing top forward Zach Parise who suffered a fractured sternum in game three and is likely out for weeks and, effectively, the rest of the playoffs. The easy answer is to say someone else from the Wild will need to step up and try to fill the void. That hasn’t and didn’t happen.
There’s speculation that Niederreiter might still be playing hurt after an injured-riddled season, but injuries in the playoffs aren’t much of an excuse if you can still make it to the ice to skate — tough-guy mentality and all that. Coyle only tallied 11 goals this season, but Zucker was second on the team with 33 goals.
One or all of those three players will need to find the net in game five if the Wild want some hope of extending the series.
Despite the lack of production on the scoreboard, Boudreau said they tried to “muster” up some different chances in the third period. The Jets just dug in, he said. Still, Boudreau hadn’t yet come to grips with the fact that the game was over.
“This was a 1-0 game that should’ve been a 0-0 game going into overtime,” Boudreau said. “Our guys worked their butts off and didn’t get rewarded for it. Winnipeg played well.”
- Devan Dubnyk (1-3) with 26 saves on 27 shots. Hellebuyck (3-1) with 30 saves on 30 shots.
- Dubnyk has seen fewer shots on goal from the Jets in games three and four than he did in games one and two. He’s stopped 37, 39, 29 and 26 pucks so far.
- The Wild fall to just 4-9 all-time in game four situations.
- Dumba and Jordan Greenway led the team with four hits each. Dustin Byfuglien and Morrissey each had four hits as well. The Jets out-hit the Wild, again, 24-19.
- The Wild outshot the Jets 30-28 in the game.
The series heads back to Winnipeg for Game 5 at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.