WINNIPEG – For the more than 15,000 fans watching it unfold live at MTS Centre Sunday, it was too close for comfort.
After the Winnipeg Jets took a 5-1 lead early in the second period, the Minnesota Wild clawed their way back into it, scoring three unanswered goals – including a pair in 38 seconds – to put a scare into the home side. Zach Parise’s goal at 10:41 of the third was all the visitors had left, though. The Jets owned the final half period, limiting the Wild to a handful of shots and even fewer quality chances.
Head Coach Paul Maurice would have preferred to wrap it up at 5-1, but he was pleased with his team’s effort in clamping down when they needed it the most.
“It wasn’t what you want, but we’re taking the win,” he said.
“We’re not giving that one back.”
Tyler Myers reviewed the video first thing this morning, and after studying the tape, he came away pleased with the overall product.
“I thought we did a lot of good things,” the defenceman said. “They made a push after we got it to 5-1, but going over the game this morning, I think we played a pretty solid game. They were able to get a little push and make it close, but even after they scored their fourth, I didn’t think we gave them much at all after that. Last night was a really big game to build off of.”
The Jets are now 2-1-1 on this home stand and 5-2-1 overall, two points back of the Central Division lead, currently occupied by the 6-1-1 Nashville Predators. The club is back in action tomorrow night against the 2014 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings before hosting last year’s champ, the Chicago Blackhawks, on Thursday.
“You realize more and more how important these early games are when it comes to getting to the end of the season,” Myers said, recalling the sprint to the playoffs last April. “It’s an encouraging
sign the way we’ve been going so far this season.”
“The last two Stanley Cup champions are coming here [over the next two games],” rookie forward Andrew Copp said. “They’re two great teams with two good goaltenders. We’re going to need to be at the top of our game here. We’ve had a strong start and we want to carry it over into the next two games.”
EIGHT GAMES IN
Rookie forward Nikolaj Ehlers continued his hot start to season Sunday, scoring his third of the year with a beautiful shot off the rush.
The 19-year-old leads all NHL rookies with 28 shots on goal, and is currently seventh in rookie scoring with three goals and six points in eight games.
“He has an elite level of skill in some very specific areas, and he’s shown an interest in improving the areas that he’ll always have to work at and be challenged with,” Maurice said. “He’s not a big man, so he’s going to have to find ways to defend without putting guys on their butts. He’ll have to use the skill that he has to get inside people, to get onto the puck and into their hands.
“We want him to feel comfortable using his skill set, and then we need him to grow and mature in the other parts of the game.
“There’s an awful lot to learn. The adherence to the system is far more strict in the NHL than it is at any amateur level.”
Young players learning to play the pro game will understandably have growing pains. In Ehlers’ case, he appears confident, more comfortable and eager to perform what the coaches are asking of him.
“He has the potential to be a really special player,” Myers said. “The way he plays the game, with that much determination and the skill he has, he has some serious upside.”
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com