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Malone scores shootout winner as Wild top Jets

by Ryan Dittrick @ryandittrick / WinnipegJets.com

Video: POSTGAME | Wild 3 Jets 2 - SO

WINNIPEG - After four consecutive days of practice and intense off-ice workouts, the Winnipeg Jets finally took to the ice for their first test of the preseason, giving Head Coach Paul Maurice and the rest of the staff their first look at the squad in game action.

Make no mistake: It was a preseason game, all right - sloppy and penalty filled after a long summer off - but the very sight of the boys in blue carving the ice in downtown Winnipeg was just the start of what we've all been waiting for.

Hockey season. It's back, baby.

Unfortunately for the Jets, Night 1 didn't go their way.

Ryan Malone scored the only goal in the shootout while goaltender Steve Michalek stopped all three Winnipeg shooters as the Minnesota Wild took a 3-2 win Monday at Bell MTS Place.

Mathieu Perreault and Patrik Laine supplied the offence for the Jets, while Connor Hellebuyck made 34 saves in a losing effort.

Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice

Penalties were the story, as the teams combined for 17 minors, resulting in just 33 minutes of 5-on-5 play.

"We had a big group of veteran guys and we slowly started getting them worked into the power play (during practice)," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "We got those guys almost 10 minutes of power-play time. Some of it looked nice, some of it looked like it was the first exhibition game."

As always at this time of year, the most important thing on this night was the evaluation process, and that will continue to be the priority until the roster is finalized ahead of the regular-season opener on Oct. 4.

But with a mostly veteran roster, it was also a chance to work on things like chemistry, as exhibited by Laine, Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, who in their brief moments of even-strength ice, had the puck on a string in the offensive zone.

Still…

"There wouldn't be a whole lot of group evaluation after that game," Maurice said.

Not with that many penalties.

The Jets opened the scoring with a power-play goal just 46 seconds into the game. Perreault took a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers at the side of the net, juked his way to the front and swept a quick shot off the far post and in to give the give home side a 1-0 lead.

Video: MIN@WPG: Perreault fakes pass, sneaks home PPG

Charlie Coyle got it right back for the Wild with a PPG of his own at 5:55, after the innocent Dustin Byfuglien was given two for holding in the offensive zone.

The physical play ramped up late in the period when Minnesota defenceman Carson Soucy levelled Mark Scheifele with a clean open-ice hit. Patrik Laine came to the defence of his teammate, but after returning the favour with a sturdy bump along the benches, he was penalized for roughing.

Video: MIN@WPG: Lowry crushes Olofsson, breaks his stick

Shots on goal favoured the Wild 16-13 after one.

Things quieted down in the second and by the midway point of the game, nine minor penalties had already been called between the two teams. The NHL is cracking down on slashing and other obstruction-related penalties this preseason and this game was no exception, slowing the pace considerably.

The Jets were even granted a 5-on-3 more than a minute-and-a-half late in the middle 20, but were unable to generate any offence.

Then, only moments after the two penalties expired, the visitors took their first lead of the night. After Michael Sgarbossa was stopped point-blank at the other end, Zack Mitchell fired home the go-ahead goal off a great pass from Kyle Rau on a 2-on-1 with 4:56 to play.

But with the help of yet another power play, the Jets had time to equalize before the period ran out.

In his usual spot at the top of the circle, Laine blistered a one-timer past Niklas Svedberg to make it a 2-2 game at 17:25. Svedberg, who played in the KHL last year, had no chance on the play as the Finnish marksman got every bit of the slapper, screaming it clean over the glove.

Video: MIN@WPG: Laine nets PPG on scorching slapper

"We didn't have (many) 5-on-5 shifts," Laine said when asked if the penalties disrupted any sort of the flow the game could have had. "Someone who doesn't play PK or PP isn't playing at all. It's tough for those players, but everyone has to fight through it

"There were some good things on the ice from our team, and there were a lot of things that we need to improve on before the season starts."

Video: POSTGAME | Patrik Laine

Laine was robbed on a similar play in the third, after the Wild made a change in goal. Svedberg finished the night with 22 saves, while Michalek stopped all 19 he faced in just 25 minutes of work.

Michalek made an incredible save on Perreault during the overtime period, throwing his body across the blue paint and blocking the one-timer with a remarkable display of athleticism.

LATE HITS: Logan Stanley and Tucker Poolman got their first taste of NHL action tonight and both blueliners made their preseason debuts.

Stanley was paired with Dustin Byfuglien and had one shot and four blocks in over 15 minutes of ice time, while Poolman - rock solid - played 17:18, including more than six minutes of shorthanded ice to lead all defencemen.

Poolman was paired with Toby Enstrom and had three shots and one block.

"I just tried to keep it simple and make the quick plays out there," Poolman said.

"(Toby's) a veteran guy and he's very smart. He was telling me know what to do and got me to talk a little more and play off each other out there."

- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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