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Wild plagued by injuries, lack of offense in first-round loss to Jets

Road atmosphere, failure to find holes against Hellebuyck too much for Minnesota

by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Correspondent

For the second straight year, the Minnesota Wild were eliminated in Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round. The Winnipeg Jets advanced in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the franchise relocated from Atlanta in 2011 by defeating the Wild 4-1 in the best-of-7 series. 

Minnesota has lost 16 of its past 20 playoff games; the Wild were ousted by the St. Louis Blues in five games in the first round last year.

 

[RELATED: Complete Jets vs. Wild series coverage]

 

"It's really disappointing," Wild forward Matt Cullen said after a 5-0 loss to the Jets at Bell MTS Place on Friday ended Minnesota's season. "I don't think that's indicative of the kind of team that we have. It was just a really tough night. Obviously, with our backs against the wall I think we all expected more and hoped for more, and I think if we could do it all over again every guy would like to give more. I don't think it was a lack of effort. I honestly think it was we were on our heels a little bit, and they ran with it. They are a very good team and they played very well. And we didn't."

Here are 5 reasons the Wild were eliminated:

 

1. No Parise, no Suter

Two players don't make a team but losing defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise hurt -- a lot. 

Suter, who led the Wild in ice time per game (26:47) and their defensemen in scoring (51 points; six goals, 45 assists), was out since March 31 with a broken right ankle.

Parise led the Wild with three goals in the series before he fractured his sternum in Game 3 and missed Games 4 and 5. 

"[The Jets] were missing some guns too, but I think they were a little deeper," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Our guys, when we miss them, we really miss them."

 

2. Sputtering offense

The Wild's top forwards failed to produce. Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter were held without a point in five games. Eric Staal, who scored 42 goals during the regular season, his most since he had 45 with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06, had one goal and one assist. Outside of their 6-2 win in Game 3, the Wild scored three goals in the series, and they were shut out in Games 4 and 5.

Minnesota, which was outshot 169-126 in the series, could not generate chances, leading to limited time in the Winnipeg zone.

"With the [injured forwards] out, I didn't do enough personally to do what I can for the team," Coyle said. "I had plenty of chances to finish. I didn't finish. Or the goalie came up big. Whatever it is, I didn't get the job done. That hurts. You always want to make sure you play your best for your team, and I felt like I didn't."

Video: MIN@WPG, Gm1: Hellebuyck shuts pads to deny Zucker

 

3. Road to ruin

Minnesota is 5-18 away from Xcel Energy Center in the postseason since 2013. In the three games at Winnipeg, the Wild were outscored 12-3.

The raucous atmosphere at Bell MTS Place, featuring the "white-out" in the stands, proved a significant home-ice advantage for the Jets. 

"It's always a different game on the road," goaltender Devan Dubnyk said. "The longer it stays tied, or 0-0, the better off we are in a tough building like this. 

"The building gets going, and things start to feel out of control. Obviously, that's a dangerous way."

 

4. Green D

Without Suter, who has played 78 NHL playoff games, the Wild relied on a mostly inexperienced group of defensemen. Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin entered the series with the most career NHL postseason games among Minnesota defensemen (39), followed by Matt Dumba (21) and Nate Prosser (20). Nick Seeler, 24, Ryan Murphy, 24, and Carson Soucy, 23, each made his NHL playoff debut in the series.

 

5. Hellebuyck's brick wall 

Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, a Vezina Trophy finalist, allowed six goals on 22 shots in Game 3, was pulled, and responded with back-to-back shutouts. Minnesota didn't score a goal in the final 141:37 of the series.

"I thought their goalie was really good in both [shutout] games," Boudreau said. "I mean, believe me, we wanted to score. It's not a question of everybody sitting there and saying, 'Hmm, we scored six last game, let's forget about scoring.' We wanted to score. They made it very difficult to score."

Video: MIN@WPG, Gm5: Hellebuyck silences Wild in shutout win

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