Winnipeg Jets 6 Minnesota Wild 4 – (Jets 17-18-5, 9-8-4 at home) – It was the first time in four meetings this season that the Jets beat the Wild, and the first game that the game was not decided by a single goal. Although the two goal spread in this game came compliments an empty net goal from Toby Enstrom at 19:56 of the third.
It was a wild seven goal first period with some sloppy play by both teams, but not a surprise with three days of being off the ice. The first five goals of the game came in a span of 4:51 with Dany Heatley starting it at 2:13. Evander Kane with his second career shorthanded goal tied the game at 3:48, converting a Michael Frolik pass for his 11th goal of the year. 2:09 later Olli Jokinen (ninth) from Chris Thorburn and Devin Setoguchi put the Jets in front, but only for a minute as Justin Fontaine tied it and seven seconds after that Stephane Veilleux with his first of the year regained the lead for the Wild and at the same time chased Ondrej Pavelec. Al Montoya came in and the game seemed to settle down from a Jets standpoint, and goals by Blake Wheeler (13th) from Jacob Trouba and Andrew Ladd again tied the game, and 1:29 later Dustin Byfuglien snapped a 15 game goalless drought with his seventh to give the Jets a 4-3 lead after one. Eric Tangradi and Adam Pardy drew assists as the Wild outshot the Jets 13-11.
Only one goal in the second, that a power play marker by Mikko Koivu, with the Jets outshooting the Wild 10-5 in the second.
The Jets kept pressing and fired 17 shots at Niklas Backstrom in the third. Wheeler's second of the game (14th) gave the Jets the lead. Bryan Little and Trouba assisted, Trouba's fourth multiple point game of the season. It came off a scramble with the Wild feeling the whistle should have gone, although replays showed the call on the ice was correct. Wheeler has now scored nine goals in the last 12 games and shares the team goal scoring lead with Little. The Wild pressed with six attackers, but off a good save by Montoya, Enstrom cleared the puck down the ice, finding the empty net, securing the win and snapping the Jets two game losing streak. Wheeler now has 14 career game winning goals.
The Jets were minus defencemen Zach Bogosian (flu), Mark Stuart (lower body), and Grant Clitsome (upper). Eric O'Dell was a healthy scratch, with Paul Postma, Jim Slater and Matt Halischuk still out long term. Wild played without Zach Parise, Josh Harding and Clayton Stoner because of injuries. Keaton Ellerby was back in after sitting the last six and had a season high four shots on goal in 20:51 of ice time. Julian Melchiori made his NHL debut after being recalled from St. John's and played 8:41. Enstrom led the Jets in ice time at 27:07 and was a plus four. Trouba was also a plus four and also had four shots on goal in 24:49 of ice time. Kane had eight shots on goal to lead the Jets while Mark Scheifele was the best face off man for the Jets winning 13 of 22. The six goals scored was a season high. Ryan Suter played 27:33, down from his usual 30 plus minutes a game. The Jets kept him off the score sheet snapping his seven game assist streak.
Montoya is now 4-0 in his career against the Wild and is 6-2-1 on the season. On the goalie change Coach Claude Noel felt his team needed a wake up. "Team needed a jolt. You make a change for different reasons. The message was for our group. There were a lot of good things in the game. I think you could see the three day break in both teams. There were five goals in eight minutes and we made the goalie change that for me, didn't really have anything to do with Pavelec. I thought things settled down in the second. In the third we pushed the game, didn't sit on the 4-4 tie. We put pucks and people to the net." As for being short staffed on the back end, "People have to help out. Collectively play better."
Jets now play in Colorado on Sunday (TSN Jets, TSN 1290), before returning home for a New Year's Eve game against Buffalo (TSN National). Then it's a three game road trip to Ottawa, Boston and Pittsburgh.