Guillaume Latendresse returns with a goal, but Wild win streak ends
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On an unseasonably warm December night on the Manitoba prairie, a winning streak ended, but it appears an intense rivalry was born.
Bryan Little's power play goal with five minutes remaining lifted the Winnipeg Jets to a 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild in a game that was played with the intensity of a late-round playoff series rather than the first-ever meeting between two neighboring teams.
There were myriad scoring chances in a back-and-forth skating battle, huge saves from both goaltenders, and a controversial play that may have a key Jets defenseman sitting out a few games.
Guillaume Latendresse, back in the Wild lineup after missing a month with a concussion, scored the team's lone goal, giving the Wild a 1-0 lead on a 5-on-3 power play in the second period. But the Jets got the game's last two goals, snapping Minnesota's winning streak at seven games.
For a decade now, the Wild have been searching for a true rival. They thought they had one for a time after an intense playoff series with the Vancouver Canucks, but it's hard to maintain a rivalry with an opponent that's two time zones away. On Tuesday, the looked to have found an instant rival in the Jets, as the teams played before a packed house in a game with intensity rarely seen.
"You could see that the two teams don't like each other out there," Wild coach Mike Yeo told the reporters gathered after the game. "I'm sre that the next one will be very interesting as well. They seemed to want to get involved in a lot of scrums and stuff like that after the whistle. The next time we play against them, I'm anticipating a pretty exciting game as well."
And the bitter taste of a hard-fought road loss may also include some lingering bad blood when the teams meet again in February in St. Paul, after a nasty play with 96 seconds left. Looking to set up an offensive play, Pierre-Marc Bouchard grabbed the puck and spun around near the end boards, where he was hammered in the back by a hard check from Zach Bogosian. The impact drove Bouchard's face into the boards, and he crumpled to the ice.
Bouchard was helped off by trainers, bleeding from the nose, and Bogosian was assessed a five-minute major penalty for boarding. The Wild, on the power play for the rest of the game, had three quality shots at the Jets net, but could not get the tying goal.
We will stay tuned on the severity of Bouchard's injury, and on potential supplemental discipline that the NHL may hand out to Bogosian, who scored Winnipeg's first goal (his first of the season) in the second period on Tuesday.
"I haven't talked to him yet, I just know he was going to get patched up because he was bleeding pretty good," Yeo said of Bouchard.
Niklas Backstrom had 25 saves in the loss.
With the game tied 1-1 late in the third, Wild defensemen Clayton Stoner attempted to loft the puck out of the defensive zone over the Jets defense. But his clearing attempt sailed into the MTS Centre crowd, triggering a two-minute penalty for delay of game. With one second left in the penalty kill, Little scored the game-winner for the Jets.
• 700: Career games for Dany Heatley, who started his NHL career with the Atlanta Thrashers (later known as the Winnipeg Jets). He's scored 710 points in those games.
• 4: Players from Minnesota (high school or college) in the Jets lineup - Mark Stuart (Rochester), Tim Stapleton (UMD), Blake Wheeler (Plymouth) and Dustin Byfuglien (Roseau).
• 15,004: Capacity attendance on Tuesday inside the NHL's smallest arena.
• 10-4-2: The Wild's road record, which is tops in the Western Conference.
Cal Clutterbuck was back in the lineup after missing two games with a leg injury. Latendresse also made his return after missing 15 games due to a concussion. Matt Cullen and Josh Harding were both scratched, while Devin Setoguchi did not make the trip to Winnipeg and the severity of his lower body injury is still not known.
Wild - Guillaume Latendresse 5 (Koivu, Heatley), 4:39, PPG
Jets - Zach Bogosian 1 (unassisted), 8:37
Jets - Bryan Little 11 (Byfuglien, Wheeler), 15:00, PPG
Shots: Wild 7-15-13-35; Jets 10-9-8-27. Saves: Wild, Niklas Backstrom (25-27); Jets, Ondrej Pavelec (34-35). Power plays: Wild 1-for-4, Jets 0-4.
1. Ondrej Pavelec
2. Niklas Backstrom
3. Blake Wheeler
Home at last, although there's a tough opponent that awaits. The Wild face the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night in St. Paul (in a 6:30 p.m. start, due to national TV). While the Wild will be coming off a tough road game less than 24 hours earlier, the Blackhawks should be well-rested, having last played on Sunday in Chicago.