WINNIPEG - On this night in Winnipeg, there was one man in particular more than 15,000 came to see.
Kyle Connor's first game - his first twirl on MTS Centre ice - was billed as must-see TV, and he did not disappoint.
The 17th pick in the 2015 Draft made his presence felt in his preseason debut Thursday, scoring the winning goal at the 15-minute mark of the second period to help the Jets to a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.
Connor's notoriously soft hands were on display after Mark Stuart made a spectacular no-look, behind-the-back pass across to the right circle. In tight, Connor outwaited the goaltender, casually flipping it up under the bar for his first as a Jet.
"I slipped behind him and they didn't really see me there. I had a little extra time, more than I thought," Connor said. "It was a great play by all my teammates. There was a lot of excitement out there. … Going into the game I had a few nerves but once you step on the ice, it's just another hockey game and that goes away. It's nice to score a goal, but it's just one game and I've got a long preseason to go."
Video: Postgame | Kyle Connor
Connor finished with 17:14 of ice time - second-most among Jets forwards.
The former University of Michigan star had countless other opportunities, and was the primary setup man for Alexander Burmistrov earlier on, but Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper kept the Russian at bay.
"His speed is definitely noticeable," Assistant Coach Jamie Kompon said. "If he uses that, it's a great asset for him. The way he shot the puck, that's what Kyle does. He has a nose for the net, he goes to the net, he goes to the soft areas, finds those areas, and he's definitely a goal scorer. He's got that touch."
Video: Postgame | Jamie Kompon
Nikolaj Ehlers added the insurance at 5:13 of the third. With a burst down the near side, he stuffed a wraparound short side to put the Jets up by two.
"It was the first game for many guys in here and we weren't ready at the beginning," he said. "We weren't ready at the beginning, but we stepped up in the second period and took the game over. We got the two points, I guess you could say."
Video: Postgame | Nikolaj Ehlers
Andrew Copp rounded out the scoring with a deflection at 18:16.
Mathieu Perreault got things rolling for the Jets offensively, scoring a power-play goal to tie the game just two-and-a-half minutes after Wild defenceman Matt Dumba struck for the game's opening goal. Perreault - Johnny on the Spot - alertly put the puck past Kuemper after the rebound from a Chase De Leo shot sat free in the blue paint.
Josh Morrissey picked up the other assist.
After falling behind 11-1 on the shot clock early on, the Jets outshot the Wild 27-17 the rest of the way. Credit to Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who kept his team in it during a sluggish first period.
"After that first period, we came into the locker room, regroup said we had more to give, and we went out and showed that," Hellebuyck said.
Video: Postgame | Connor Hellebuyck
LATE HITS: Forwards Bryan Little, Drew Stafford, Chris Thorburn, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Marko Dano, Scott Kosmachuk, Chase De Leo, Mathieu Perreault and Alexander Burmistrov, along with defencemen Mark Stuart, Ben Chiarot, Kevin Czuczman and Tyler Myers all saw their first action of the pre-season.
Perreault left the game late in the third period after taking a hit from Kurtis Gabriel. The veteran stayed down for several minutes before being assisted off the ice. There was no update on his condition following the game.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com