WINNIPEG - Everyone counted them out, except themselves.
In a game that featured all four goaltenders, the Winnipeg Jets rallied from 3-1 and 5-2 deficits to tie the game midway through the third period, but Jason Zucker scored the go-ahead goal with 2:10 to play to lift the Minnesota Wild to a 6-5 win in a wildly entertaining divisional matchup.
The Jets, who were firing on all cylinders offensively, just couldn't outscore their many defensive miscues any longer after a 57-minute slugfest with one of the NHL's best.
"When you've got the puck on your stick, you need to move to break it out into position and we turned those pucks over," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "It wasn't a matter of them getting it and rattling it around on us. They took it - well, we gave it to them - and they put it quickly into the back of our net."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
With the loss, the Jets remain five points back of the St. Louis Blues for the second and final wild-card playoff spot. The Blues were also in action tonight, losing 2-1 to the Edmonton Oilers, but still have two games at hand.
Still, if we've learned anything from these Jets over the past few weeks - going 2-1-2 in their past five outings - it's that they won't go down without a fight.
"Our season is on the line. We've got to win games," Mathieu Perreault, who was one of five different goal-scorers for the Jets on this night, said in a sullen post-game scrum.
"We had a chance to win the game but instead, they scored. It just sucks."
Video: POSTGAME | Mathieu Perreault
The Jets trailed 5-3 entering the third period, but scored twice in under two minutes midway through to tie the game at five.
Joel Armia got things rolling with a shorthanded goal at 9:35, firing a long shot off the end glass and having it bounce in off the back of the goaltender. Then, at 11:17, Mark Scheifele scored for the dramatic equalizer, gunning a shot over Minnesota goalie Darcy Kuemper from the top of the right circle after getting a pretty feed from Perreault off the rush.
Scheifele had a three-point (1G, 2A) night and is now up to 65 points (26G, 39A) on the year, tying him with San Jose defenceman Brent Burns for fourth in NHL scoring.
But it wasn't meant to be.
Video: MIN@WPG: Scheifele beats Kuemper with wicked wrister
A wide-open Zucker took a backdoor feed from Erik Haula before rifling a shot five-hole at 17:50 to secure a 6-5 victory for the road team.
Perreault, Armia, Scheifele, Patrik Laine and Adam Lowry supplied all the offence for Winnipeg. Mikael Granlund led the way with three points (1G, 2A) for Minnesota, while Devan Dubnyk picked up the win, stopping all seven shots he faced after Kuemper was pulled in the third.
"It's not always fair in this league," said captain Blake Wheeler. "I wouldn't say we grossly outplayed them and deserved a better fate. You've got to take some positives that we battled back from a couple deficits, but we would have liked to at least get it into overtime."
Laine drew first blood for the Jets off a great feed from Scheifele only a minute into the game. Scheifele won a battle with Ryan Suter down low before finding Laine with a great pass out front. The rookie made no mistake, slapping it off balance past Kuemper for the game's opening tally.
Video: MIN@WPG: Laine roofs one-timer from the slot
Granlund's team-leading 21st of the year tied things up for the Wild just as quickly, though, as the Finn took a breakaway pass from Mikko Koivu and made a slick move in tight to go bar down on Hellebuyck.
Granlund went back to work late in the period as he picked up an all-worldly assist on Tyler Graovac's go-ahead goal. Granlund was initially stopped on a rebound in front but, showing some incredible awareness at the side of the net, he delivered a no-look, backhand pass from his knees that gave Graovac a tap-in.
Then, at 18:41, he singlehandedly set up Haula for a power-play goal to give the Wild a commanding 3-1 lead on just their eighth shot of the game. With Paul Postma serving a major penalty for boarding, Granlund took the puck with speed through the neutral zone, pushing back the Winnipeg defence before dishing off and driving the net. Looking to find Granlund in front, Haula's attempted pass across the blue paint went off Hellebuyck's arm and in.
Shots on goal favoured the Wild 12-11 after one.
"We're thin on our back end tonight, missing a key piece. We're not overly built to grind a defensive game, but we're capable of it," Maurice said. "We've played the right way defensively in the past five games, but we weren't very good here tonight."
The teams tallied twice each in the middle frame, preserving Minnesota's two-goal lead after 40 minutes.
Marco Scandella wired a shot from the point through traffic to make it a 4-1 game at 8:03, but Lowry got it right back off a jam play at the side of the net about a minute-and-a-half later.
Ryan White restored the two-goal cushion with a slippery shot off the rush at 13:19, but, once again, the Jets answered back. Perreault did a great job creating separation in front before getting a pass from Wheeler and finding the open side past Kuemper.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com