WINNIPEG – Matt Dumba scored the winning goal four minutes and 12 seconds into 3-on-3 overtime as the Minnesota Wild defeated the Winnipeg Jets 1-0 in exhibition play Tuesday night at MTS Centre.
Dumba converted a feed from Justin Fontaine in tight, roofing a shot over the glove of Connor Hellebuyck for the winning tally.
The goal came moments after the Jets goaltender made a ridiculous glove save off Tyler Graovac on an odd-man rush. Hellebuyck played the third period and overtime after Ondrej Pavelec handled the first 40 minutes.
Pavelec stopped all 19 shots he faced, while Hellebuyck made six saves on seven attempts.
“It’s exciting as heck,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said of the new overtime format. “It will be interesting to watch it develop through the course of the year when more strategy comes into play and teams start running more defined routes. … Everybody’s coming up with their own (strategy) and nobody’s going to tip their hat with regard to what they think is important. The offence in these games is generated by two or three situations that repeat themselves. You saw some of those tonight. You take your chance, they get their chance.”
Maurice said he “liked the confidence” his team was showing with the puck tonight, but would prefer a simpler game moving forward in the pre-season.
“I saw a couple things that I liked,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d necessarily form an opinion on anybody or what they’re capable of doing, but as always after a game, I’ll go in and write a lineup down that if I had to start the regular season with tomorrow, what would it look like based on what you know today.
“There were some good things.”
Shots on goal favoured the Wild 10-9 after a slow opening period of play. Nikolaj Ehlers led all skaters with five attempts, four of which landed on target.
Ehlers played a pivotal role all night.
“There are still some small changes that I have to make. … But I felt really good out there,” he said. “I felt I could use my speed to do what I do best, get around the defencemen and get the puck to the net. The defensive part, I felt I did well today, but there are still some changes I have to make, but for the most part I felt comfortable playing the game that the Jets play, so it’s exciting.”
Asked whether or not he’s a fan of the new 3-on-3 overtime format, the speedy Ehlers could only smile.
“There are a lot of 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s and breakaways. It’s exciting. I like that kind of game, but for sure I’m a little bit tired after that,” he laughed.
Pavelec looked sharp early in the middle frame, making a spectacular left pad save off Graovac in the high slot after receiving a one-time feed from Jordan Schroeder.
Nic Petan sprung Thomas Raffl on a breakaway midway through the period, but Niklas Backstrom was there to deny the Austrian’s five-hole attempt, coolly preserving the scoreless tie on the Jets’ 15th shot of the night.
Pavelec was equally strong at the other end, making a beautiful glove save off Charlie Coyle with under a minute to play in the period. Coyle was the beneficiary of a nifty give-and-go with Gustav Olofsson off the rush, but with room to maneuver in tight, his bid for the top corner was emphatically snuffed out.
The Jets were far and away the better team in the third, recording nine of the period’s 11 shots. Mark Scheifele was among those with an extra step, but his best chance – a one-on-two turned breakway – sailed wide of the cage.
Scheifele sped off on another breakaway early in overtime, but again, Backstrom was there, calmly kicking the puck to safety.
“I’m just saving it for the season,” Scheifele laughed. “I wish I would have buried on a few of those. (Blake Wheeler) and (Drew Stafford) made a few unbelievable plays.
“It’s a good start and I want to build off that.”
The Jets were altogether dominant in the front half of the extra session, but couldn’t buy one on Backstrom.
The Jets are back in action tomorrow night against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place. Puck drop is at 8:00pm CT.
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com