ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Chris Stewart brought his usual energy in his return to the Wild’s home ice, and new recruit Eric Staal finished Minnesota’s comeback in its home opener.
Stewart had a goal, an assist and finished his second period with a fight, while Staal got his first goal with his new team to help the Wild overcome a two-goal deficit and beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 on Saturday night.
Stewart scored to start the comeback and assisted on Matt Dumba’s power-play goal that tied it, then Staal capped the three-goal second period to lead 3-2.
“I have high praise for Stew and what he does,” Dumba said. “Tonight, he showed why he’s so valuable. He contributed lots and really got this ball rolling.”
Stewart was known for his exuberance when he arrived in Minnesota via trade in 2015 and helped the Wild to the Western Conference semifinals. Stewart played 56 games for new Wild coach Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim last season, scoring eight goals with 12 assists.
The big forward’s shot from left of the crease deflected off Ehlers’ skate and crossed the line before goalie Michael Hutchinson swiped the puck away. After a quick review, the officials’ call stood as a good goal.
Stewart also fought Chris Thorburn in the final minutes of the second period.
“That’s one of the main reasons I was brought in here and I’m just doing my job,” Stewart said of providing a spark.
Devan Dubnyk made 14 saves for Minnesota, which is now 14-0-2 in its home openers at the Xcel Energy Center. Jonas Brodin added a goal for the Wild.
Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Mark Schiefele scored for Winnipeg. Hutchinson stopped 27 shots.
“Maybe subconsciously,” Wheeler said of letting up after scoring twice in the final 71 seconds of the first period. “It didn’t feel that way in the room and it didn’t feel that way on the bench, but maybe we were a little bit casual, feeling good about ourselves. But from what we were talking about in here and on the bench, it didn’t seem that way.”
Minnesota dropped its opener under Boudreau at St. Louis on Thursday and was booed off the home ice following the first period Saturday after Wheeler tipped home a shot from Dustin Byfuglien with 2.6 seconds left.
The Wild came out stronger in the second and outshot Winnipeg 12-2 in the period.
“Mistakes were made, it was obvious,” Staal said. “But there was choice words by Bruce, I guess you could say, but they were the right things said. I think everybody knew that if we got to our game and got on our toes a little bit more that we would feel the momentum shift, and it did.”
Schiefele’s goal with 18.7 seconds left stood after a video review determined Mathieu Perrault didn’t cause goaltender interference after crashing into Dubnyk.
“All things open up after chaos gets created and we didn’t create enough chaos in the offensive zone to create some of the plays we were looking for,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said.
NOTES: Jets F Bryan Little missed the game with a lower body injury sustained in the season opener. Coach Paul Maurice told reporters the injury doesn’t require surgery, but Little is out indefinitely. … With Little out, Maurice shuffled his lines and No. 2 overall draft pick Patrik Laine was on the first line after scoring in his NHL debut. Laine played with Schiefele and captain Blake Wheeler. Alexander Burmistrov took Little’s spot in the lineup and centered the third line. … The Wild will honor Jacob Wetterling, the 11-year-old boy abducted from nearby St. Joseph in 1989, and the Wetterling family during their first three home games. The Wild players will wear Wetterling’s No. 11 on their helmets during the first three home games. Zach Parise and his wife, Alicia, also announced an $11,000 donation to the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center.
Jets: Winnipeg returns home on Monday against Boston.
Wild: Minnesota continues its three-game homestand Tuesday against Los Angeles.
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