The Wild came out flying in its second preseason game against the Winnipeg Jets, taking its first win of the preseason on the road, 4-1.
After struggling to find a rhythm in its first preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, the Wild came out of the gate strong, taking an early shot advantage and didn’t take the foot off the gas. Despite having to kill off three first-period penalties, seven in the game, Minnesota scored the game’s first goal.
“After last game we played a poor game and we were not going to rush to decisions, and we played a very good game tonight and we’re not going to rush to decisions,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said.
On the Wild’s first tally, it was a case of if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The line of Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter controlled the puck low in Winnipeg’s end. After a mad scramble in front, with all three forwards getting whacks, Mathew Dumba snuck down from the point to slip home a backhand past Jets goaltender Al Montoya for his first goal of the preseason at the 7:45 mark of the opening period.
The Granlund-Haula-Niederreiter line was creating chances all over the ice. Yeo was pleased with Haula's Wild debut, “First NHL game, you can tell he’s a confident kid; confident but modest.” Haula played in several tense situations throughout the night. “He’s one of those guys: the more you see him, the more you trust him,” Yeo added.
While the Jets tied the game at the end of the first on a Bryan Little goal, the Wild got back on track and kept rolling in the second on a pair of transition goals. First, Charlie Coyle picked up the puck in the neutral zone and cut across the blue line down the left side of the ice. He feathered a pass to Dany Heatley, and Heatley, touched it right back to Coyle, who tapped the puck into a wide open net at the 14:37 mark of the second frame.
Minnesota extended the lead less than thirty seconds later. Kyle Brodziak broke across the blue line and fired a slap shot from the right boards. Montoya made the save, but kicked out a juicy rebound to Kris Foucault, who was driving the net hard and banged home the rebound to give the Wild a two-goal lead.
“It was one of those games that is the polar opposite of the game we saw the other night,” Yeo said. “The other night we were not good in any areas and today we were pretty strong in all areas.”
“I liked the way our veterans played tonight,” Yeo said. “Young kids, you know they’re come in and are really playing for something. What I liked was our older guys came in and showed they were playing for something, too.”
Josh Harding got the start in goal and played two periods, making 16 saves. The Jets made a late push in the third, but Darcy Kuemper came in and closed out the victory, stopping all 11 shots he faced.
With players throughout the lineup contributing tonight, the Wild brass will have some tough decisions concerning the roster and playing time as training camp moves on.
“I will say a lot of guys helped themselves tonight,” Yeo said.
Steven Kampfer added a shorthanded empty net goal with 1:05 left in the game.
For the Jets, Montoya was solid posting 30 saves and played the duration of the contest.
The game started to get chippy in the third period. With the Wild and Winnipeg together in the central division, this could be the start of a beautiful rivalry.
“We hopefully get under a lot of people’s skin. If we play the right way, then we should be pretty frustrating to play against and I felt we did a good job of frustrating them in a lot of ways tonight.”
The Wild and Jets will play at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.