Now that’s how you make a statement. By showing pride and toughness, and a willingness to not back down from physical challenge.
Backed into a corner, the Wild came out swinging. Not literally, like in the final seconds of Game 2. Wild players displayed a different kind of fortitude Sunday night.
The Wild stood up to the bully with an offensive attack that was potent after being largely dormant the first two games. Six players scored goals as the Wild offered an impressive pushback against the Winnipeg Jets in a 6-2 victory in Game 3 at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild trails 2-1 in the best-of-seven, but the effort put forth by the home team made it feel like a series now.
“We needed it,” Zach Parise said. “That’s the way playoffs go. You go from losing two up there, thinking it’s the end of the world. Now all of a sudden we’ve got some life.”
Losing the first two games in Winnipeg was not the end of the world, or even unexpected. It was the optics of Game 2’s stinker that was sobering.
The Jets pounded away and the Wild offered little resistance. The Wild spent so little time with the puck as the Jets hammered away with body blows that scoring chances felt like a rare phenomenon.
Game 3 represented a 180-degree turn.
“We were just kind of throwing pucks away in Winnipeg,” Mikael Granlund said. “We need to play good with the puck.”
Wild players accomplished that from the opening faceoff, setting a tone that made clear they wouldn’t get pushed around without a response. They also delivered their own share of big hits.
“We were bound and determined to take a stance,” defenseman Matt Dumba said. “We weren’t going to give them anything here at home and kind of snuff any sort of life that they were going to try and generate.”
They were the aggressors this time. They were strong with the puck and won battles along the boards. They made better plays through the neutral zone and skated hard to the net, willing to take punishment.
The most impressive aspect was their response when Dustin Byfuglien and Co. tried to turn the game into WWE.
The Jets took undisciplined penalties in the first period by stepping over the line hoping to impose their will in the same manner as the first two games. The Wild stood its ground and then scored two power-play goals in the first period to seize control.
There were positive signs up and down the lineup. Marcus Foligno gave the Jets a taste of their own medicine with two big hits along the glass on the same shift.
Mikko Koivu assisted on the first two goals. Parise parked himself at the top of the crease and was rewarded with a power-play goal.
Rookie Jordan Greenway made a positive impact with his size and notched his first career goal. Fellow rookie Nick Seeler continued to show maturity and strength on defense.
A key moment came in the first period with the Wild trailing 1-0. Two Winnipeg penalties gave the Wild a 5-on-3 advantage for 1 minute, 21 seconds.
The Wild failed to score with a two-man advantage, but Granlund banged in a rebound to tie the game at 1-1 before the power play expired.
Not scoring in that situation would have created some uneasiness. The Wild desperately needed something positive to happen, and Granlund’s goal ignited a roaring fire.
The floodgates opened in the second period. Four goals, including two in a span of 20 seconds by Eric Staal and Greenway, made it a rout.
The Wild needs to duplicate that same urgency in Game 4 on Tuesday with the expectation of a strong rebuttal by the Jets. The Wild has some momentum now because a performance like that builds confidence.
This is the nature of playoff hockey, up and down, back and forth. The Wild looked hopeless on Friday and hellbent determined on Sunday. The response gave this series a different tone.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org