Evander Kane stepped onto the ice in the fourth round of the shootout Thursday night against Minnesota, a blue Winnipeg Jets hat flew on the ice.
Kane had already scored two goals on the night, and while he didn't get credit for the hat trick, his goal in the deciding round of the shootout sent a large contingent of Jets fans back to Manitoba happy. With both the Jets and Wild desperate for the extra point, Kane made sure the Jets went home with it in a 4-3 victory at Xcel Energy Center.
Kane's shootout heroics marked the first shootout goal of his career and moved Winnipeg to within four points of eighth-place Toronto in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
After Chris Mason stopped Dany Heatley in the fourth round of the tiebreaker, Kane raced in and fired a wrist shot that beat Niklas Backstrom cleanly. It was his Kane's first goal in five career shootout attempts.
The loss was the sixth in a row for the Wild, who began the night five points behind eighth-place Phoenix in the West. It also extended the Wild's club-record home losing streak to five.
"Lately we've been in every game. I give our guys a lot of credit, going through a real tough time right now," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "I know that a lot of other teams would not handle it like our guys are right now."
Despite managing just six shots on goal through one period and only nine through two, Minnesota found itself knotted at intermission each time. Kane and Devin Setoguchi traded goals in each period to send the game to the third period tied at 2-2.
Setoguchi's second of the night, at 12:15 of the second, was the Wild's first shot of the period. The lazy snap shot from the right circle slipped through Mason's arm on the power play to knot the score at 2.
It was the last time Mason would be cheated.
Even on Mikko Koivu's goal early in the third period, one which gave the Wild a brief 3-2 lead, Mason sprawled across his crease to stop Koivu on the back door. But the rebound went right back to the Wild captain for his 10th of the season.
After Alexander Burmistrov tied the game just two minutes later, Mason was sterling -- robbing Wild forward Nick Johnson on a post-to-post save from point-blank range, keeping the score tied at 3-3 with six minutes remaining in regulation.
In overtime, Nick Schultz had a grade-A chance in front, but again Mason shut the door.
"He was unbelievable," Kane said. For a guy to not play for a few games and then come in and do that. … It just shows the focus and determination he has.
"He held us in that game the last 10 minutes. He got us into overtime and was stellar in the shootout. Great performance by him."
Tensions boiled over midway through the third as Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck and Winnipeg's Jim Slater earned roughing minors. While that mix-up was being extinguished, Wild forward Darroll Powe and the Jets' Tanner Glass dropped the gloves at center ice. Although there was no clear winner in the fight, Minnesota certainly gained the energy -- closing a once-large shot disadvantage to just 27-25 by the end of overtime.
"The momentum shifted, there is no doubt about that," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "We lost both Slater and Glass and that line was the one I was trying to get out against Koivu. They had three or four shifts in a row that got us hemmed in.
"For us, it gave us some grief. But they didn't get anything out of it and Mason was big when he had to be."
Minnesota opened scoring 7:50 into the contest, capitalizing on a 3-on-1 break. Koivu dished a pass from the left dot to a charging Setoguchi on the back door to give the Wild yet another early lead -- the Wild have now struck first in five straight games.
The Jets tied the game at 18:47 on an effort play by Minnesota native Blake Wheeler. The former Golden Gopher cruised around the net and found a crashing Kane all alone at the right post, where he easily tapped in his 20th of the season.
"Heck of a play by him," Kane said. "Taking on two or three guys, was able to find me back door. Great play by him."
Kane struck again in the second, tipping a pass past a defenseman into the slot and then winning a race against Backstrom before chipping the puck into the net at 3:00.
The Wild were able to muster only one even strength shot in the second period and Winnipeg led 19-9 in that category through 40 minutes.
It took the Wild exactly 1:03 into the third to match that total, with the third shot of the period giving Minnesota a 3-2 lead. A perfect back-door pass by defenseman Jared Spurgeon found Koivu near the left post.
The lead lasted just two minutes before Burmistrov gobbled up a bouncing puck that had bounced off the back wall and hopped over the stick of Schultz, burying a wrister over Backstrom's glove.
"I turned around and just tried to clear it into the corner," Schultz said. "It came off the end boards, turned around and let it by me. I have to make the play there."
"We didn't get discouraged when we got down [in the third]," Kane said. "I think that happened a little bit [Tuesday] against the Islanders. We talked about that before the game and didn't want to have that happen again."
The defeat marks just the second time this season Minnesota has lost when scoring three goals or more (17-2-1).
"We talked before the game about this being a rivalry game," Yeo said. "The last game, there was intensity. It was going to be fast paced, it was going to be hard hitting. Guys stepped up.
"That, to me, is what winners do. We had a lot of guys play like winners tonight."