Wild fall to Jets, fail to clinch playoff berth again
WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk didn't mince words after another seriously flawed effort by his hockey team Sunday night. "I don't think anyone's going to tell you that was even close to good enough tonight," said Dubnyk, ...
WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk didn't mince words after another seriously flawed effort by his hockey team Sunday night.
"I don't think anyone's going to tell you that was even close to good enough tonight," said Dubnyk, not long after the Wild suffered an ugly 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre. "We're going to get throttled if we're going to play like this going in (to the playoffs).
"I'm not worried about it. I don't think we are," he added. "But I think we all know that's not even going to come close come playoff time. We don't want to be sliding in."
But that's exactly what the Wild (38-31-11) appear to be doing. Losers of its last three straight games, Minnesota could have wrapped up the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference with a victory in Winnipeg.
But that celebration will have to wait as the Wild suffered a third straight loss.
The Wild remain five points up on the Colorado Avalanche (39-36-4). The Avalanche, who sustained a costly 5-1 defeat to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night, need to win their final three regular-season contests while hoping the Wild drop their last two.
Jets center Andrew Copp, with his fifth goal of the season, right winger Drew Stafford, with his 21st, and right winger Blake Wheeler, with his 23rd into an empty net, scored third-period goals to solidify a victory in the club's final home game of a disappointing 2015-16 campaign.
Wild center Mikael Granlund cut Winnipeg's lead to 2-1 with his 13th of the season at 7:37 of the third. But Copp collected the puck on the Minnesota side of the center line, raced in and slipped right through defensemen Matt Dumba and Ryan Suter like they were statues and then deked out Dubnyk to give the hosts a two-goal cushion.
"We got back in the game in the third at 2-1 and we had two stick checks again on one play," said Wild head coach John Torchetti. "We had to fight hard to get back in the game at 2-1 and on the very next shift we give it right back to them."
Jets center Mark Scheifele, with his team-leading 27th, and right winger Chris Thorburn, with his sixth, gave the hosts a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes. It was Thorburn's first goal since Dec. 15, a span of 47 games.
Thorburn said the Jets were keenly aware of the game's importance for the visitors.
"We talked about it a little bit, with the rivalry that's kind of developing over the years with Minnesota," he said. "We didn't want them to clinch, but at the same time we just wanted to come out with an effort that gave us a chance to win and we were able to do it."
The Jets (32-39-8) snapped a four-game winless skid but are still guaranteed to finish in the Central Division basement and miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years since moving north from Atlanta.
Dubnyk was stumped for an answer when asked how the team could come out with such an uninspired performance with so much on the line.
"I wish I could tell you, but I don't know. It's strange," said Dubnyk, who made 29 saves. "We've got to be ready to play that playoff hockey from the start of the game.
"We've got to be absolutely desperate from the drop of the puck and it's not there right now, but I know this group will find a way."
Winnipeg has gone just 11-16-2 in games against Central Division rivals, but has taken four of five against Minnesota.
Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 28 shots, has earned the Jets at least a point in each of his past five starts, going 3-0-2 since March 20.
The Wild, meanwhile, have left their fate to another day. The club returns to the Twin Cities to host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday and the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
"It's a lesson. We've got to be better than that," said center Mikko Koivu. "We cost ourselves. We need to learn from that. And we have another chance on Tuesday, another great team against us. So, we'll learn from our mistakes and prepare better. That's the bottom line."
The Jets wrap up the season in California this week, clashing with the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, the San Jose Sharks on Thursday and the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
"You like to play games like this that meant something to the other team and in our building," offered Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "But we're going to get three really strong tests here, powerful teams that are gearing up, that want their game to be just right (for the playoffs)."
NOTES: The Wild played without F Ryan Carter (upper body), LW Thomas Vanek (upper body), D Jared Spurgeon (lower body) and LW Chris Porter (healthy scratch). ... The Jets were without RW JC Lipon (upper body), C Bryan Little (upper body), RW Anthony Peluso (upper body) and LW Brandon Tanev (healthy scratch). There is a slim chance Little, out since he took a hard, open-ice hit from Tampa Bay D Anton Stralman on Feb. 18, could return this week when the Jets finish the season with three games in California. ... Winnipeg RW Blake Wheeler (Plymouth), D Mark Stuart (Rochester) and D Dustin Byfuglien (Roseau) all hail from Minnesota. ... Minnesota LW Erik Haula had his career-high, 10-game point streak (five goals, six assists) snapped Friday in a 3-2 loss to Detroit. It was the longest active point streak in the league. ... Wild LW Zach Parise, 31, is still one goal shy of 300 for his 11-year NHL career.
By Jason Bell, The Sports Xchange