ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild returned home from Winnipeg and regrouped to roar back in their first-round playoff series.
The Jets were a late arrival for Game 3 in more ways than one.
Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise had power-play goals in the first period for the spark that was missing on the road, and the Wild scored four times in the second to beat the Jets 6-2 on Sunday night.
“We’re here to play,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said, “and we’re fully capable of pushing hard.”
The Wild will try to tie the best-of-seven series 2-2 when they host Game 4 on Tuesday night.
“They have been physical so we’ve got to push back,” said Jordan Greenway, who scored his first NHL goal just 20 seconds after Eric Staal sent a wrist shot past a struggling Connor Hellebuyck. Fighting pucks all night, Hellebuyck was pulled for Steve Mason at the second intermission.
Matt Dumba and Marcus Foligno bookended the furious middle frame with goals for the Wild, who won a postseason home game for only the second time in their last nine contests. Mikko Koivu and Nick Seeler each had two assists and Dubnyk made 29 saves, keeping the crowd loud all night.
Blake Wheeler and Tyler Myers scored for the Jets.
“We’re in a series here,” said Hellebuyck, who made 16 saves. “We’re going to lose one once in a while. It’s how we respond to the next one.”
After overtaking the Wild with two third-period goals to win 3-2 in Game 1 and dominating the action in Game 2 on the way to a 4-1 victory, the Jets hit some minor turbulence. The blizzard that blanketed the Twin Cities forced their charter flight to land in Duluth on Saturday afternoon and return to Winnipeg for the night. The Jets skipped the customary morning skate and arrived Sunday about eight hours before faceoff.
Whether or not the Jets were actually affected by the weather hardly mattered, given the way the Wild greeted them after the lackluster performance in Game 2.
“I don’t know if it made us worse, but I can say for a fact that it certainly didn’t make us better,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said.
The only shot the Jets sent on target over the first 11-plus minutes was the one by Wheeler that went in, a wide-angle attempt on the power play and a softie if there ever was one in keeping with Dubnyk’s uncanny tendency to let fluke goals get by him while making many more high-degree-of-difficulty stops. Dubnyk also gave up a goal on the first shot in a couple of games late in the regular season.
“And then he shut the door. So I wasn’t worried,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I thought, ‘OK. This is going to work.'”
The Wild snapped right back. Koivu took the initial shot that set up both goals in the first period, with Granlund waiting for the rebound on the first one . Parise freed himself from a tie-up in traffic with Jacob Trouba to move in position for the redirect of the second one .
Myers brought the decibel level down with his slap shot that cut the lead to 3-2 , but the Wild killed consecutive penalties with only about a minute between power plays soon after that to retake momentum. Then came the goals by Greenway and Staal, and the rout was on.
“When when that second period started, we weren’t able to get faster,” Wheeler said. “And that’s when the game changed. They stuck with it, and we just weren’t able to get to our speed we needed.”
The second period went from bad to worse for the Jets, when Myers was checked by Foligno and caught his skate at the bottom of the boards. He needed help off the ice and into the locker room and did not return. Maurice had no update on the defenseman’s condition, but without elaborating he suggested the injury could have been avoided.
“Didn’t love it,” Maurice said, referring to both the hit and the outcome.
There was a lot to like, at least, about the Wild’s performance. All four lines produced at least one goal, and the rookie defenseman Seeler had a breakout game in the back with four blocked shots and a breakaway shot that hit the post and barely stayed in front of the line.
“That’s playoff hockey. You need everybody,” Staal said. “You don’t win unless you have four lines and all your defensive core going.”
The Wild set a franchise postseason record for goals in a home game. Their high was a 7-2 victory at Vancouver in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 5, 2003. … After clinching their first-round series with a win in Game 6 at Xcel Energy Center in 2015 over St. Louis, the Wild lost both home games in a sweep by Chicago. Then they went 1-5 on their own ice in the playoffs over the last two years in series losses to Dallas and St. Louis. … Jets center Mathieu Perreault missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Toby Enstrom and center Matt Hendricks have yet to play in the series due to a lower-body injury. … Wheeler had the third postseason goal of his career in 28 games.
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