WINNIPEG - This incarnation of the Wild will be remembered for its resilience, as it had a knack for rebounding when adversity — from injuries, inconsistency and inexperience – threatened to undermine it.
And while that plucky perseverance headlined its pursuits in 2017-18, it wasn’t the last impression made by the group.
The Wild was crushed by the Jets 5-0 in Game 5 Friday in front of 15,321 at Bell MTS Place, ending its season while Winnipeg moved on to the second round after cruising to a 4-1 series win — the franchise’s first — in the best-of-seven set.
“It’s really disappointing,” center Matt Cullen said. “I don’t think that’s indicative of the kind of team that we have.”
This wasn’t an unexpected result.
The favored Jets had the better offense, a tighter defense and one of the Vezina Trophy finalists in net. The Wild was able to mask that gap for stretches — especially in a decisive 6-2 win on home ice in Game 3.
But the difference between the two clubs was abundantly apparent by Game 5 when a disastrous start fueled the Wild’s downfall, with the team surrendering four goals on 10 shots in just 11 minutes, 59 seconds.
“It couldn’t have gone any worse at the start for us, and it couldn’t have gone any better for them,” center Eric Staal said. “They got the momentum and ran with it.”
Goal No. 1 came only 31 seconds after puck drop, a wrist shot from defenseman Jacob Trouba on the Jets’ first shot. At 5:42, the second blow arrived — a deflection by winger Bryan Little that zigged right as goalie Devan Dubnyk zagged left.
By 11:10, it was 3-0. Brandon Tanev’s wrist shot eluded Dubnyk’s glove and just 49 seconds later, the Jets tacked on another when winger Joel Armia redirected in a Dustin Byfuglien shot.
That chased Dubnyk from the game; he left with only six saves on 10 shots, a tough exit after he helped keep the Wild competitive with the Jets to that point in the series.
“I went in there after the first period and said to everybody that this is not on Devan,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s been our rock all year, and we let him down a little bit.”
Backup Alex Stalock turned aside 15 shots in relief, giving up a Mark Scheifele power-play goal 32 seconds into the third.
Not long after Winnipeg’s first goal, the Wild had a chance to even it up on the power play. But getting organized was a challenge, and the team put only two shots on net. Overall, the Wild went 0-for-3 in the game; the Jets were 1-for-2.
When time finally ran out, the Wild went a gruesome 141:37 without a goal. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves, giving him back-to-back shutouts.
“They did a great job of shutting it down, and their goalie played very well and didn’t give us anything,” Cullen said.
It was the second straight season the Wild was kicked out of the playoffs after five games and of its past six consecutive trips to the postseason, the Wild hasn’t made it past Round 1 four times.
This ending, then, is familiar, but the way it finished was certainly different for this version for the Wild.
“Obviously with our backs against the wall, I think we all expected more and hoped for more,” Cullen said. “I think if we could do it all over again, every guy would like to give more.”