WINNIPEG – The Jets stuck with what worked.
They pummeled the net with shots, battered the opponent with hits and regularly cleaned up the leaks around their net.
And, like it did in the regular season, this combination yielded success, as the Jets secured the first playoff victory in franchise history with a 3-2 triumph over the Wild on Wednesday in front of a boisterous crowd of 15,321 at Bell MTS Place that gave them a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven, first-round series.
But adhering to their strengths didn’t steamroll the Wild, a silver lining for the visitors and a potential preview of how competitive this series could be.
“They didn’t beat us by six goals or anything,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “At the same time, we had an opportunity with the lead in the third period and our goaltender playing good. We thought we had a chance to win.”
The Wild almost stole home-ice advantage away from the Jets after a terrific start to the third in which it flipped a one-goal deficit into a lead amid contributions from a pair of veterans.
Only 1 minute, 46 seconds into the period, center Matt Cullen polished off a feed from winger Jordan Greenway with a one-timer by Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck to tie the score at one.
Only 2:12 later, the Wild moved ahead when winger Zach Parise finished a two-on-one pass from winger Mikael Granlund.
“It gave us a lot of life,” Boudreau said. “But we just couldn’t sustain it.”
Not when the Wild strayed from what helped it stifle the second-best offense in the NHL earlier.
A turnover that eventually landed on winger Patrik Laine’s stick ended up behind goalie Devan Dubnyk only 53 seconds after Parise’s goal.
And then with 7:13 to go, defenseman Joe Morrow’s one-timer from the point slid five-hole on Dubnyk after it clipped winger Charlie Coyle’s stick.
“That game was going to script as far as we wanted things to go,” said Dubynk, who made 37 saves to Hellebuyck’s 18. “Unfortunately, we turned pucks over after that to the wrong guy, and they get one that goes in off us. It just shows you the margin’s small, and it’s frustrating to lose but even more so when if we could write it up, that’s about how it would go. That one turnover can be the difference in the game, and that’s the wrong guy to give it to. Lesson for us.”
The back-and-forth scoring struggle was unlike the first two periods, when the Jets flexed their offensive prowess without much reward.
Credit Dubnyk for buoying the Wild early when Winnipeg jumped out to a 13-4 advantage in shots, and that seemed to galvanize the team to test Hellebuyck more in the second — setting up an even feel that flattered the Wild considering it was scoreless despite a hearty number of chances for the Jets.
“I thought we played the first two periods about exactly as we wanted to play as a road game in this building,” Dubnyk said.
Eventually, though, on shot No. 21, the Jets finally eluded Dubnyk on the power play.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler fed center Mark Scheifele for a one-timer from the slot at 17:37 of the second. Winnipeg ended up going 1-for-2 with the man advantage, while the Wild was 0-for-1.
“We view this as a missed opportunity,” Cullen said. “I don’t think we played as well as we can. I think we showed pieces of our game, but I don’t think we played to our level, to be honest with you. We have better.”