Eric Staal’s goal highlights dizzying Wild victory over Winnipeg
As one of the heavyweights in the Central Division, a Stanley Cup contender and the team that knocked the Wild out of the playoffs earlier this year, the Jets are poised to be a measuring stick all season long.
And in its first chance to see how it stacks up, the Wild certainly made a statement storming back for a 4-2 win during a Friday matinee in front of 19,116 at Xcel Energy Center that kept the Jets behind it in the standings.
Center Eric Staal whacked in a rebound in front with 2 minutes, 31 seconds to go for his third goal and second game-winner in the past two games, this after a new-look fourth line scored twice in the third period to erase a two-goal hole.
Winger Nino Niederreiter responded to a demotion to the Wilds last trio with a terrific effort, wiring in his first even-strength goal in 36 games at 3:06, before he set up the tying goal at 11:47 a bouncing puck that caromed off center Eric Fehr.
With 1:09 remaining, winger Zach Parise added an empty-net goal.
This late-game push came despite a 0-for-6 showing on the power play, a missed opportunity that could have easily put the Wild in control much earlier.
Give the Jets credit, though, for stalling a Wild unit that had been on a tear of late, since this was the first time in six games that the Wilds power play didnt convert. In its previous five games, the Wild had chipped in seven goals with the man advantage.
Winnipeg was steady from the get-go, and goalie Alex Stalock initially held serve.
Stalock was starting in place of No.1 Devan Dubnyk, who was ill, and he made 14 first-period saves including two on an impressive sequence that saw him stop winger Patrik Laine before stretching out to get a piece of winger Kyle Connors attempt at the rebound with his blocker.
But Winnipeg still exited the frame with a lead after Laine buried the rebound off a Tyler Myers point shot with 3:10 remaining.
Still, the game had an even feel, with the Wild missing on a few odd-man rushes and failing to capitalize on two power plays.
The team had even more chances with an extra attacker in the second, as the Jets went to the box three more times, but the Wild couldnt convert getting stuck on the perimeter for stretches, as it struggled to funnel pucks to the net.
It looked like that inability to execute would become costly, especially after the Jets upped their cushion on a five-hole shot from winger Nikolaj Ehlers at 18:57 on the power play; Winnipeg finished 1-for-4.
But the Wild was reenergized for the third, with the fourth line setting the tone and, ultimately, paving the way for a comeback that started with Niederreiters goal.
Stalock assisted on the tally, his league-leading second helper among netminders; defenseman Greg Pateryn also earned an assist, his first point with the Wild.
Niederreiters goal snapped a 184:43 scoreless skid against the Jets that dated back to the playoffs without factoring in preseason play.
Hellebuyck ended up with 35 saves, while Stalock had 26.