The Wild’s success during the regular season at home certainly suggested the team would improve when its first-round, best-of-seven series against the Jets shifted to Xcel Energy Center after falling into a 0-2 hole in Winnipeg.
But the ability to have last change and influence the on-ice matchups more frequently also seemed to be a reason why the Wild could start to claw its way back into the series.
And that’s exactly what happened, with the Wild surging to a 6-2 win over the Jets in Game 3 Sunday.
“As the course of the game goes along, especially in our building, and you see who’s really going for their team, you can match up an awful lot better,” coach Bruce Boudreau said Monday after the Wild held an optional practice at Xcel Energy Center. “One night [Paul] Sastny’s line is going great; one night [Mark] Scheifele’s line is going great. Then you can put what you think is your best matchup on them. Whether they want to re-change when you see the matchup they don’t like, that’s up to them.”
Defensemen Jared Spurgeon and Nick Seeler were tasked with shutting down the Stastny line, which also features wingers Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine. And they did that, with Laine earning the only point of the trio – an assist – on the power play.
“Just trying to play hard on that line,” Seeler said. “Obviously a ton of skill. We just tried to be good in the defensive zone with those guys, for sure, because they're offensively gifted and they can shoot from anywhere. We just need to keep pucks to the outside.”
The Jets’ top line was quiet, too, after facing the Wild’s No.1 unit of Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin. Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler was the only one to contribute on the power play.
Special-teams play can make adhering to these matchups a challenge, but that should also encourage the Wild that it was able to have offensive success against the Jets without always being in its most ideal situation.
“We didn’t match up a lot only because of so many penalties,” Boudreau said. “Your penalty killers are probably the guys you want matching up sometimes. So it’s difficult to do. If you’re not having Eric Staal kill penalties, then you know [Adam] Lowry is going to come out against him. But you don’t want to sit him on the bench for too much length of time. So it was difficult. It would be a lot easier if it were a no-penalty game.”
Keep in mind, the Jets didn't finish Game 3 at full strength.
Defenseman Tyler Myers left late in the second period after winger Marcus Foligno collided with him following a shot-block attempt. Foligno was questioned about the sequence Monday, explaining it as a "freak accident."
"I stumble, and I guess I catch him on the way down," he said. " ... No intent there. Hopefully he's OK."
Asked if he punched Myers' knee on the way down, Foligno said, "No. Honestly, I did not punch his knee. I've looked at it 100 times, too, and my stick's in my hand and I think I'm trying to grab whatever I can before going down. No, there was no punching motion. I'm sure a lot of Winnipeg fans are saying that. But, no, I'm not trying to hurt someone out there, especially a good friend like Myers."
Foligno and Myers played together previously in Buffalo.
Boudreau agreed with Foligno's interpretation of the play, while Jets coach Paul Maurice disagreed with the lack of supplementary discipline for Foligno on the play.
As for Myers, he's day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
"He fell," Boudreau said. "Anybody that thinks anything different that there was something to it is trying to create something that's not there. He went to block a shot and he fell. That was it."