Powered by an unexpected offensive leader, the Winnipeg Jets will look to continue their early-season momentum when they visit the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night in Saint Paul, Minn.
The Jets are coming off a 4-3 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, leaving with two points despite some late drama. Winnipeg led 3-0 going into the final five minutes of regulation before the Hurricanes pulled goalie Pyotr Kochetkov. Carolina then tied the score on three goals in 6-on-5 play.
Just when it seemed as if Winnipeg might face a devastating loss, Josh Morrissey scored 2:10 into the extra frame. Morrissey also scored early in the third period, marking the first two-goal game of his eight NHL seasons.
While Morrissey has made his share of contributions on the scoresheet over the years, the veteran defenseman has never collected more than 37 points in a season. However, he already has 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) this season, and he leads all Jets skaters in points through 17 games.
After becoming Winnipeg’s new head coach during the summer, Rick Bowness said he gave Morrissey “a green light” to become “a lot more involved in the offense.”
“At the end of the season … when there’s a discussion of who the top 10 defensemen are for the Norris Trophy voting, (I told him) I want to see his name in there. And he’s taken great pride in that,” Bowness said.
The Jets will begin a three-game trip against a Wild team that is only 3-5-1 on home ice. This modest home record reflects the 8-8-2 Wild’s overall inconsistency this season.
The Wild also are coming off an overtime victory against the Hurricanes, a 2-1 result on Saturday that snapped a three-game (0-2-1) winless drought. Minnesota was the team with the late comeback on that night, trailing until Sam Steel tied the score 17:23 into the third period. Steel also earned an assist for helping to set up Alex Goligoski’s overtime winner.
Wild coach Dean Evason said he hopes the game will be a turning point and a reminder of how successful his team can be when it is at top form.
“That’s who we are. That team looked like us, right?” Evason asked rhetorically. “(Carolina) pushed us to play like us. … It’s a really good template for us to remember, to reinforce.”
Minnesota is 0-for-14 on the power play over its past five games. Solving the power-play woes could be difficult against the Jets, whose 85.7 percent (36-for-42) penalty-kill percentage is among the best in the league.
The Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov has seven points (two goals, five assists) during his six-game points streak. Kaprizov is two games away from matching his career best, as he collected a pair of eight-game points streaks last season.
Filip Gustavsson likely will receive another start on Wednesday, since Marc-Andre Fleury (upper-body injury) is still on the Wild’s injured reserve. Gustavsson looked good against the Hurricanes, stopping 20 of 21 shots.
Backup goalie David Rittich started Winnipeg’s last game, so regular starter Connor Hellebuyck is expected back against Minnesota. Hellebuyck is 8-4-1 with an excellent 2.07 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
–Field Level Media