ST. PAUL, MN - With the final game of the preseason out of the way for the Winnipeg Jets, some tough decisions will have to be made ahead of the season opener in New York on Thursday.
The Jets walked out of Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with a 5-4 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild Sunday afternoon. Winnipeg completed the preseason with a 3-3-1 record with a game that saw a lot of special teams action for both Central Division squads.
Josh Morrissey ended the game on a 2-on-0 break with Blake Wheeler with the Jets captain sending a pass in tight that the Jets defenceman tapped in for the winner at 1:09 of overtime. The shift included Morrissey losing his stick, going to the bench to get a new one and then ending the game.
"Never, that's never happened before especially in three-on-three," said an exhausted Morrissey.
"Obviously you never like losing your stick. You are kind of upstream without a paddle so you can't do much. Laurent (Brossoit) made some huge saves there, couple of them point blank shots in the slot. I mean there is nothing you can do. Next thing you know I'm on a two-on-oh breakaway with Wheels, I was pretty tired at that point. I was happy to score, happy to have the shift over too."
Video: WPG@MIN: Morrissey pots OT winner for the Jets
The Jets have not been able to spend a lot of time during training camp to work on their special teams. They got plenty of chances Sunday with Winnipeg went 1-for-7 with the man advantage and Minnesota finished 1-for-5.
"I liked it. I liked a lot of it. We gave up one (power play goal) at the end but I liked our system," said Maurice.
"Our power play had extended zone time without a bunch of the pieces (players). But the structure is what we're trying to work on and it was good."
Although the addition of Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine make some choices easier there is a possibility that injuries could open the door for a younger player to be on the opening night roster.
Bryan Little collided with the Wild's Luke Kunin almost five minutes into the first period and went to the bench shaken up before leaving for the dressing room. The Jets centreman did not return with an upper body injury and Paul Maurice was not happy with the collision.
"I think he knows where his head is when he's coming through (the front of the net)," said Maurice.
"Or stay on your feet and there is no problems there."
Maurice mentioned yesterday that one of his centres availability was in question for the game and it turned out to be Mark Scheifele who didn't make the trip. Which meant a huge opportunity for David Gustafsson who got the chance to centre a line with Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers.
"We're just really excited about this young player. So what we've seen tonight we think we've seen enough to know he understands the game," said Maurice.
"He picks up his reads and he's got a really good defensive stick and he battles hard. So that's most of the components of a real good defensive player but we think there's something more."
The 19-year-old Gustafsson was thrilled about the opportunity.
"It's a real confidence boost," smiled Gustafsson.
"I mean its two good wingers I got to play with so it's nice."
Both goaltender saw work in the game with Connor Hellebuyck allowing three goals on 19 shots he faced in the first two periods while Laurent Brossoit stopped 15-of-16 shots in the third and in overtime.
Six minutes into the first period, Mikko Koivu tipped a Louie Belpedio point shot into the top corner over Hellebuyck's glove to make it 1-0 Wild.
Winnipeg answered back in the same fashion when Mathieu Perreault deflected Neal Pionk's low shot at 6:15 and it was 1-1 after 20 minutes.
26 seconds into the middle frame Matt Dumba walked in from the point and wristed a shot past a screened Hellebuyck restoring Minnesota's one goal lead.
Adam Lowry tied the game at two while the Jets were shorthanded taking a beautiful pass from Josh Morrissey which sent him on a breakaway, Lowry beat Dubnyk on his backhand.
Winnipeg would take the lead for the first time during a 5-on-3 man advantage at 4:08. Perreault at the side of the net spotted a wide open Jack Roslovic and his one timer went to the far side for the 3-2 Jets advantage.
With 1:22 left in the second the Wild evened the score, Kevin Fiala pounced on a loose puck at the side of the Jets net and chipped it past Hellebuyck on the short side just as Anthony Bitetto's penalty had expired.
A friendly road bounce gave the Jets lead again with 38 seconds gone on the the clock in the third. Ville Heinola took the puck behind the Wild net and once he reached the half wall passed to Mason Appleton. Appleton's wrist shot went off Dumba and over Dubnyk's shoulder to make it 4-3 Winnipeg.
Winnipeg held that lead until the 18:30 mark and it was Minnesota's power play going to work. With Dubnyk on the bench, the Wild used the 6-on-4 to tie it up Mats Zuccarello slipped the puck past Laurent Brossoit for their first man advantage goal of the afternoon.
The Jets will have Monday off before returning to the ice Tuesday for practice likely with Laine and Connor back with the team.