Jets fall 2-1 to Wild, set to face Flames

- November 18th, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — The Winnipeg Jets suffered a setback on Sunday night that brought their season-high four-game winning streak to an end in a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

It wasn’t the most complete effort by the Jets, but this wasn’t a no-show either, though the Jets were a bit sluggish coming out of the gate as they managed only two shots on goal during the first period — neither of which were that difficult for Wild goalie Josh Harding to stop.

Harding continues to lead the NHL in goals against average (1.25) and save percentage (.946) and his emergence as a bona fide starter since the early-season injury to Niklas Backstrom is impressive.

As for the Jets, who finished with 22 shots, weren’t able to penetrate the Wild defence to create many Grade A scoring chances on Sunday.

The best two were probably a net drive by Blake Wheeler and a one-timer from Dustin Byfuglien during the second period.

However, the lone puck to get behind Harding was a Bryan Little shot that officials ruled was tipped in by Byfuglien.

For Byfuglien, it was his fourth goal in four games and sixth point in six games. He played a team-high 27 minutes and 13 seconds on Sunday and was sound defensively.

The Wild also deserve credit, as they blocked 24 shots in the contest, including seven from Ryan Suter and five from his D-partner Jonas Brodin.

Suter is so fun to watch and he surpassed 30 minutes once again, (30 minutes and 8 seconds). He’s so smart and is such a strong skater. It’s amazing the impact he can have on the game, despite not recording a single shot on goal.

Speaking of Wild additions, I thought Zach Parise was excellent in the game as well, using his speed to make things happen for both himself and others.

Spoke with Parise in the morning and he said he feels a lot more settled now that he’s in his second year after signing that big-ticket free-agent deal at the same time as Suter.

With Zach Bogosian out week-to-week with a groin injury, Zach Redmond played his first NHL game in nine months and didn’t look out of place at all — which is impressive when you consider a knee injury limited him to just two AHL games before his recall.

Redmond was used mostly on the third pairing with Adam Pardy and also saw 1:35 of PP time and 48 seconds on the penalty kill in 11:45 of work. Redmond moved the puck well and took another step in showing he belongs at the NHL-level. Guessing you’ll see his ice time increase tonight in the second game of the back-to-back and third game in four days for the Jets.

Bogosian’s spot on the second pairing with Toby Enstrom was filled by Keaton Ellerby, who finished with just over 22 minutes of work.

Ellerby finished minus-2 and I thought he was mostly steady in the game, though he was beaten to the Marco Scandella dump-in that Zach Parise got to Mikko Koivu in front for his first of two goals, at 16:37 of the first period.

I also thought that Jets G Ondrej Pavelec was a little too casual on the dump-in and probably should have made an effort to cover the puck before it was retrieved by Parise.

On the game-winning goal, Koivu won the draw and Ellerby lost coverage on Wild RW Charlie Coyle, who fed the Wild captain for a quick one-timer.

Ellerby was only part of the problem on the winning goal. A series of errors, beginning with an icing that led to the defensive-zone face-off, was also part of the Jets’ collective undoing.

Speaking of face-offs, it was another tough night in the circle for the Jets, who won only 37% of their draws.

Several Jets felt they deserved a better fate after the game and they certainly deserve credit for evening the score in the opening minute of the third period.

But this was the type of game where the Jets needed to ensure they got to extra time and secured at least one point, so you can file that under the category of lessons to learn.

Pavelec played another strong game as he made his fifth consecutive start, making several timely saves to keep it a one-goal game after his team fell behind.

As expected, the atmosphere inside Xcel Energy Center was enjoyable, as thousands of Jets’ fans made the trek to Minnesota and helped create plenty of noise. The rivalry is growing and it’s going to be interesting to see what it could become should these two teams face each other in the playoffs one year.

Although the move generated a lot of buzz on Twitter and social media, I personally thought it was funny that the anthem singer opened O Canada in French in what seemed like an effort to try and stifle Jets fans from belting out the customary True North.

Turns out it didn’t hold most fans back and while some were outraged, I personally thought it was creative and certainly didn’t come as a result of malice.

Let’s not forget that on the previous Jets’ visit to Xcel Energy Center, the anthem singer paused to allow fans to sing True North.

I spent the morning hustling to the airport and flying home for tonight’s Jets game against the Calgary Flames.

Sun columnist Paul Friesen provided the online coverage from the morning skate but I’ll be back in the press box in time for the Jets’ 23rd game of the campaign.

The Flames arrived in Winnipeg on Sunday and have cooled off after an impressive start.

As expected, backup Al Montoya will make his fifth start and six appearance of the season while the Flames counter with Reto Berra.

Since it was an optional skate this morning for Jets, I’m not sure if there are any lineup changes. Only possible addition would be RW Anthony Peluso but won’t know that until the warm-up. UPDATE: Peluso is in and Matt Halischuk is out for Jets vs Flames.

I’m looking forward to watching Flames rookie C Sean Monahan play live, as I remember him from his gold-medal performance with Team Ontario at the Under-17 Championship a few years ago.

Much like the Flames, Monahan’s offensive production has tailed off since his bullish start, but the numbers (eight goals, 13 points in 20 games) are impressive and he’s still playing well.

For the sake of comparison, Jets rookie C Mark Scheifele (who is two years older than Monahan and a fellow Ontario Hockey League alum) has one goal and five points in 22 games.

During the past couple of games, Claude Noel has reunited Scheifele with Evander Kane (who has gone eight games without a goal) and my guess is that the Jets head coach is hoping to help each player get back on track.

Scheifele hasn’t scored since the season opener, but his vision and passing might be able to help create better opportunities for Kane, who seems to be settling for a lot of long shots from the outside during the slump.

I mentioned this in the game-over online story but it didn’t make the paper, so as a reminder, Team Finland GM Jari Kurri was in St. Paul on Sunday night to do some scouting and among those he was watching for Olympic consideration is Jets C Olli Jokinen.

The veteran pivot has represented his country on numerous occasions in both the world championship and Olympics. I’m not sure Jokinen is a lock at this point, but the fact his bounce-back season has led to consideration for the club is a testament to Jokinen, who vowed upon his return to Winnipeg this fall that he wasn’t done and that he would be better this season.

Jokinen’s not likely going to return to the 61-point player he was the season before he signed with the Jets but he deserves credit for picking up his game.

Here’s how I expect both teams to start Monday:

Jets

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane-Olli Jokinen-Devin Setoguchi
Michael Frolik-Mark Scheifele-Anthony Peluso
Eric Tangradi-James Wright-Chris Thorburn

Grant Clitsome-Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom-Keaton Ellerby
Adam Pardy-Zach Redmond

Al Monotya (Ondrej Pavelec)

Flames

Mike Cammelleri-Matt Stajan-Lee Stempniak
Sven Baertschi—Sean Monahan-Jiri Hudler
T.J. Galiardi-Mikael Backlund-David Jones
Lance Bouma-Joe Colborne-Brian McGrattan

Kris Russell-T.J. Brodie
Chris Butler-Dennis Wideman
Shane O’Brien-Ladislav Smid

Reto Berra (Karri Ramo)

 

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