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Wild hand Jets first loss of new season

Ehlers, Wheeler & Scheifele got the goals for Winnipeg

by Ryan Dittrick @ryandittrick /

Tonight, the comeback-ers became the comeback-ees.

In a script opposite of Thursday's delirious third-period rally, the Winnipeg Jets allowed four unanswered goals en route to a 4-3 loss to the division rival Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler scored the first two goals, and Mark Scheifele added one late to round out the scoring for Winnipeg.

Michael Hutchinson made 27 saves in the defeat.

The Jets were smothered in the final 40 minutes, recording just eight shots on Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk.

"They did a real nice job with their coverage and we had a hard time moving past that," Head Coach Paul Maurice said. "We didn't have second and third touches on the puck, which is something we're usually pretty strong at. … (We need to) be a little stronger down there, hang on to a few more pucks and get them through to the net.

"Waiting for things to open up rarely works. Things always open up after chaos gets created and we didn't create enough chaos in the offensive zone to open up some of the plays we were looking for."

The Jets opened up a two-goal lead with a pair of quick goals late in the first period, but the Wild tied things up with two of their own, 58 seconds apart, in the front half of the middle frame.

Ehlers opened the scoring with a rip awfully reminiscent of his first-career goal tallied one year ago at Madison Square Garden. Minnesota defenceman Jonas Brodin carelessly dished the puck up the middle and Ehlers, anticipating the move, stepped up, picked off the pass and unleashed a bomb bar down to give the Jets a 1-0 lead.

Video: WPG@MIN: Ehlers steals pass, buries slap shot

Then, with just 1.2 ticks left to play, Wheeler extended the lead with a nifty redirection in front, surprising Dubnyk with a subtle touch of Dustin Byfuglien's long shot from the centre point.

Video: WPG@MIN: Wheeler deflects one in, extends Jets' lead

 The offensive production sputtered from that point forward.

"You have to give them credit. They got a little bit quicker after the first period and made it tougher for us to regain possession in the offensive zone," Wheeler said.

"There were some times where we had some opportunities in the offensive zone and had some possession time, but we just held on to it a little bit too long. Once we get it set up, once we get possession of it, we need to be a little bit quicker trying to establish a shot, get on that rebound and set up our offence from there."

Wheeler now has 20 points (10G, 10A) in his last 13 games overall dating back to last year. Mark Scheifele, who scored the overtime winner in Thursday's home opener, picked up the second assist, extending his point streak (7G, 10A) to 12 games.

Chris Stewart bowled his way to the net and buried a shot in tight to cut the deficit to one, 7:25 into the second period. Hutchinson made a miraculous effort to reach back snatch it off the goal line, but the puck had just rolled across, giving the Wild their first of the night.  

The Wild pulled even on a Matt Dumba goal less than a minute later, and just four seconds into an Adam Lowry penalty, before Eric Staal put them up 3-2 late in the period. Staal finished off a beautiful pass from Charlie Coyle in the blue paint to score his first of the year, and first in a Minnesota sweater.

The three Wild goals came in a seven minute and 35 second span.

Hutchinson came up with a number of key stops and could not be blamed for the loss.

"I felt good, I felt good about my whole game," he said. "That fourth goal I'd like to have back - that's on me - but I was feeling pretty confident."

The Jets were outshot 12-2 in the one-sided middle stanza.

Jonas Brodin's unassisted marker put the Wild up by two at 14:09 of the third before Scheifele made it a 4-3 game with 18.7 seconds to play.

Video: WPG@MIN: Scheifele puts home a rebound late in 3rd

- Ryan Dittrick,

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