Great fun while it lasted: Wild fall to Jets in a run-and-gun shootout
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Neither the Minnesota Wild nor the Winnipeg Jets looks like a good bet to make the NHL playoffs this year, but they got a taste of playoff hockey on an otherwise nondescript Thursday in February.
With an overflow sellout crowd on hand - at least a few thousand of them rooting for the visitors - the Wild got a point, but not a win. Evander Kane scored twice in regulation and again in the shootout as the Jets swept their two-game season series with their nearest geographic rival, beating the Wild 4-3.
Devin Setoguchi had a pair of goals for the Wild, who played exciting up-tempo hockey to the delight of the fans, but still saw their losing streak grow to six games (0-4-2).
"It wasn't fun, but it was a better game," said Setoguchi, who scored in the first and second periods, and assisted on Mikko Koivu's goal in the third. "Kind of back and forth, but even so that's not the way we play, run and gun. Things haven't been going well, so the positive is, yeah, we get a point out of it."
For two teams that had never faced each other before, the December meeting between these teams in Winnipeg was an intense and even nasty affair, won 2-1 by Winnipeg. An hour before Thursday's game, when more than a thousand fans clad in Jets blue had already filed into the rink and were chanting "Go Jets Go!" there was a feeling that this would be something different.
The Wild have never had a true rival in the 11 years since the NHL returned to Minnesota, but from the two meetings they've had, there's bad blood brewing, and fans are enjoying every minute of it.
"It was a good feeling on the bench and in the locker room," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "We talked about before the game that this was going to be a rivalry game despite the fact that we don't play these guys a lot. I know we didn't win tonight, but there are a lot of guys that played like winners tonight."
The Wild took leads in all three periods, but were answered each time, most notably late in the first period when former Gopher Blake Wheeler streaked to the net, then passed to Kane who was all alone for the goal.
"Great play by (Wheeler)," Kane said. "He showed a heck of a lot of speed taking on two or three guys there and was able to find me back door. Great play by him."
The Wild survived a rough patch early in the second, falling behind 2-1 but again forging a tie when Setoguchi scored on the power play for his first multi-goal game with the Wild.
In the shootout, only Erik Christiansen scored for the Wild, while Wheeler and Kane got shots past Niklas Backstrom, giving Winnipeg the win. Still the intensity of the game, which included constant banter between the fans, end-to-end hockey, and even a good scrap between the Wild's Darroll Powe and Tanner Glass from Winnipeg, left many fans happy on their way out the door, whether they were driving to a home in Minnetonka or Manitoba.
"We've just got to keep pushing and keep working our game. It's coming. We're close, but not quite there yet," said Powe. "That's what hockey's all about. The crowd was going, fight in the stands, and fighting on the ice, so it was a hard-fought game."
After Koivu scored early in the third to give the Wild a 3-2 lead, it looked like the kind of advantage that they'd be able to clamp down on and ride out a win. But just two minutes later, Winnipeg's Alexander Burmistrov pounced on a rebound and scored, knotting the game once again.
"We were in a similar situation against the Islanders where we got scored on and kind of deflated as a team," said Jets goalie Chris Mason, who had 22 saves. "We talked about it and answering that quickly says a lot. It's something that's going to happen and you have to respond to those situations. As a team we responded great tonight."
• 10-9-5: The Wild's NHL-worst record when scoring the first goal of the game.
• 2/22/11: Setoguchi's last two-goal game, versus Detroit when he was a member of the San Jose Sharks.
• 3/04/94: The Winnipeg Jets' last regular season game in Minnesota, a 6-1 neutral site win over the Ottawa Senators at Target Center.
• 17-1-3: The Wild's record when scoring three goals or more.
Cal Clutterbuck returned to the lineup after missing one game and most of another with a lower body injury. He played 21 shifts and had a pair of shots on goal.
Wild - Devin Setoguchi 13 (Koivu, Heatley), 7:50
Jets - Evander Kane 20 (Wheeler, Byfuglien), 18:47
Jets - Kane 21 (Wellwood, Burmistrov), 3:00
Wild - Setoguchi 14 (Prosser, Scandella), 12:15, PPG
Wild - Mikko Koivu 10 (Spurgeon, Setoguchi), 1:03
Jets - Alexander Burmistrov 11 (Byfuglien, Kane), 3:03
Wild: Cullen - O, Koivu - O, Christiansen - X, Heatley - O
Jets: Wheeler - X, Wellwood - O, Little - O, Kane - X
Shots: Wild 6-3-14-2-25; Jets 8-11-6-2-27. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (24-27); Jets, Chris Mason (22-25). Power plays: Wild 1-for-2, Jets 0-3.
1. Evander Kane
The hottest team in hockey awaits the Wild somewhere near the Gateway Arch. Since making a coaching change earlier in the season, and bringing in veteran Ken Hitchcock (who was widely rumored to be a candidate for the Wild vacancy early in the summer) the St. Louis Blues have been on a tear, charging into second place in the Central Division (behind the Red Wings). The Blues host the Wild on Saturday afternoon in St. Louis.