Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 2-0 loss against the Winnipeg Jets:
Just like a thistle bush, the budding rivalry between the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets grows thornier over time. There is real disdain between these two Central Division rivals and there will be plenty of ice bags in both locker rooms after another combative contest.
The Wild fell behind on an unlucky bounce on the power play and tried to play catch-up the rest of the game. Minnesota native Blake Wheeler tried to make a crossing pass, but it went off the skate Wild defenseman Marco Scandella and into the net.
Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec did his best Devan Dubnyk imitation, shutting out the Wild for only the third time this season. The last time the Wild was shutout was on Nov. 26 against the Los Angeles Kings.
Tonight marked the final regular season home game for Minnesota. The club will take the show on the road for its final three games, all coming against the Central’s best: Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis, respectively. Tomorrow night, the Wild takes a 10-game road-win streak into the unfriendly confines of the United Center. Expect another torrid battle between division rivals…
We’ve come to expect a physical affair when the Wild and Jets lock horns, and tonight’s contest was no exception. Minnesotans love a border rivalry (think of Wisconsin and North Dakota) and the Jets are the Wild’s closest NHL opponent in proximity. You could really see the disdain between teams, with more stick-work between whistles than your typical Monday night regular season game. Winnipeg plays a physical brand of hockey and Minnesota went toe-to-toe with the visitors tonight.
Of course when the home team got physical, things didn’t go its way. The Wild was handed the game’s first penalty when Chris Stewart and Jets defenseman Mark Stuart engaged in a shoving match. Stewart and Stuart swatted at each other, but only the Wild forward was hauled into the sin bin. In the second, Charlie Coyle out-muscled Mark Scheifele and was called for elbowing. Overall, the club, and the fans in the building, weren’t happy with the way things went…
If tonight’s contest were played at the Apollo Theater, the Sandman would’ve hooked the refs offstage. The Xcel Energy Center crowd was vociferous as it’s been this season in its disapproval towards the refs. The fans constantly booed the officials whenever they thought the stripes missed a call. In the first they jeered a no-call on Justin Fontaine, when Jiri Tlusty blatantly knocked him down with the puck nowhere in sight. Later, Mikael Granlund was clipped in the face with Andrew Ladd’s stick. This came directly in front of referee Steve Kozar, which drew the ire of the home faithful.
Conversely, when Wild fans thought the officials made the “right” call, they were welcomed with a Bronx Cheer, filled with more sarcasm than Bill Murray. Two of the better cheers in the first came after an offsides and icing calls. However, the loudest ovation came when the Jets were handed its first penalty of the night when Stuart interfered with Coyle at the end of the first period.
Wild captain Mikko Koivu was back in the lineup tonight after missing Saturday’s game with a scratched cornea. With the center back in, the club’s lines were set and rolling, however, the team was unable to crack goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. Koivu’s impact on the team is paramount in the defensive end, but helps the top line establish a strong offensive zone cycle.
While the team returned Koivu, it lost one of his wings in the third period. With the Wild on the power play Matt Dumba fired a cannon on net, which hit Nino Niederreiter, who was trying to screen Pavelec. Niederreiter limped off the ice and was helped down the tunnel by a member of the team’s medical staff. Following the game, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo didn’t have an update on Niederreiter, so we’ll have to wait on his availability until tomorrow.
Rob Suggitt is completing a hockey lovers bucket list this month. The 53-year-old in the middle of the ultimate fan road trip: to visit all 30 National Hockey League arenas in 30 days. The odyssey began in Long Island on March 13 and ends on the final night of the regular season, April 11, in Toronto. Tonight, Suggitt visited Xcel Energy Center. To coincide with his ultimate roadie, he’s attempting to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Check out his website to follow the final leg of the tour and to donate.
The National Champion, Gopher Women’s Hockey team, was also in the building tonight. The ladies from University of Minnesota are as close to a dynasty as you’ll find in college athletics, winning its third National Championship in four years by defeating Harvard, 4-1.
Wild fans set a single-season attendance record as 779,974 of you came through the turnstiles this season. I’ve got to admit this season I’ve seen the best crowds at Xcel Energy Center since I began working for the organization during the 2011-12 season. Stick tap to everyone who bleeds Iron Range Red out there and has come to a game this season.