The Winnipeg Jets opened the home portion of their 2019-20 NHL season after a four-game road trip to start the season, fittingly, in the midst of a near-whiteout as a massive Colorado Low pounded the city and Bell MTS Place with heavy snow.
Related: Winnipeg Jets Home Opener History
The Jets’ opponent, the Minnesota Wild, gave them as many problems last season as the slippery roads gave fans flocking to the downtown rink Thursday evening. The Jets were woeful against their closest geographical neighbour in 2018-19, losing all five matchups.
However, the Jets finally ended their woes against the Wild — and made trekking out in the wild weather worth it — by beating them 5-2; it was their first regular-season win against the Central Division rival since Nov. 2017.
Facing Wild Not-So-Nice for Jets Last Season
The handful of 2018-19 losses included a couple of embarrassing third-period meltdowns: the first on Black Friday, in which the Wild scored four straight third-period goals en-route to a 4-2 victory, and the second in early February, which saw the Jets lose a late 2-1 lead by allowing the game-tying goal with 1:27 to go and the game-winner just 26 seconds later.
They also included anemic efforts on Dec. 29 and Jan. 10, where the Wild stymied the Jets and allowed them very few high-quality chances, and on April 2, when the Wild took full advantage of Eric Comrie and a fractured Jets team in total free fall that lost six out of its last nine regular season games, fell from first place in the Central Division, and bowed out in six to the St. Louis Blues in Round 1.
The home-opener was their first opportunity this season to buck the trend and take advantage of a Wild team that opened the season with back-to-back losses.
Jets Allowed First Goal Again…
After the traditional and rousing home-opener player introductions that featured a live band, the Jets looked raring to go. They built some momentum early with a power play in which they had plenty of zone time and five shots, but couldn’t convert.
Ultimately, though, they allowed the opening salvo for the fifth straight game — for the record, they gave up the game’s first goal in three out of five games against the Wild last season — when Ryan Hartman stole the puck from 18-year-old Ville Heinola and potted it past Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets found themselves down a goal after a high-tempo first 20.
…But Fought Back Again
Like they did against the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins on their season-opening swing through the Metropolitan Division, the Jets answered their opponent’s goal fairly quickly. Blake Wheeler tied the game up 1-1 and picked up his 700th career NHL point with a goal less than two minutes into the second. Shortly after, Kyle Connor was robbed of what would have been the go-ahead goal.
After weathering some pressure, the Jets grabbed their first lead of the night. Mark Scheifele set up Patrik Laine with a gorgeous seam pass on a two-on-two rush, which the Finnish sniper — who is off to an outstanding start in 2019-20 with three goals and seven assists through five games and tied for the NHL lead in points with the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid — one-timed past Devan Dubnyk.
Another Lead Relinquished…
As the Jets entered the third period up one, you can bet many inside the barn had the Black Friday blunders in their brains.
Any fears were well-founded as Brad Hunt beat Mathieu Perreault, juked Jack Roslovic with a pump fake, and ripped one high past Hellebuyck’s stick side early in the third. The goal gave the Wild some giddy-up, but Hellebuyck, standing tall for his second-straight start after a sub-par preseason, made a couple of 10-bell saves — he ended the game with 38 — to keep the game knotted two apiece.
…But Jets Go “Bang Bang” at Four-on-Four
“Bang bang” — it’s play-by-play announcer Dennis Beyak’s go-to phrase when the Jets score two goals in quick succession, and he got to use it.
After a big scrum, four-on-four ensued. During it, Laine dangled Jordan Greenway and Matt Dumba in the offensive zone and slung the puck over to Connor on the back door, who potted his second of the year. Just 28 seconds later, jack Roslovic scored his second of the season off a rebound to send the fans into a frenzy.
There would be no comeback akin to last February’s for the Wild, as Laine iced the game with 2:16 to go with his second goal and fourth point of the night, putting one into the yawning cage.
After Breaking One Trend, Can Jets Keep a Good One Going?
The Jets will head to Chicago for a matchup with the Blackhawks on Saturday with a chance to make it two wins in a row — they had much more success against the Blackhawks than they did against the Wild last season, sweeping the four-game regular season series.
They’ll have the chance to make it two in a row against the Wild on Dec. 21.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.