Upon learning of his new wing man on the Wild’s fourth line, center Eric Fehr told Nino Niederreiter he had to dump pucks in and retrieve them — the usual style for a team’s last trio.
But the change of scenery ended up helping Niederreiter rediscover his offensive flair, as he put the Wild’s 4-2 rally over the Jets on Friday at Xcel Energy Center in motion by scoring on a shot off the rush and setting up the game-tying goal.
“He was hard on pucks and when you have a guy like that that can come across the blue line and score like that, it always helps,” Fehr said.
This was the type of reply coach Bruce Boudreau was envisioning when he slotted Niederreiter next to Fehr and winger J.T. Brown. He wanted Niederreiter to succeed and thought this assignment would alleviate pressure while also boosting a unit that could use a lift.
And that’s exactly what happened.
“Obviously things haven’t been going as well as I’ve been hoping for,” Niederreiter said. “Chance to go out there and get something done, so that definitely felt good.”
Niederreiter’s goal was his first at even strength since March 24, a span of 35 games that included the playoffs. He parlayed that momentum in the third period into Fehr’s tally, shuffling the puck toward the net for Fehr to score off a redirect.
“He got the goal, and you could almost see a difference in him from that moment on — the proverbial monkey off your back,” Boudreau said.
The first-round series playoff series against the Jets last season was a rugged affair, and that physicality resurfaced Friday — especially in the third period when defenseman Nick Seeler and winger Marcus Foligno ended up in the Jets bench amid a brawl that started after Seeler approached center Adam Lowry, who elbowed center Joel Eriksson Ek.
“Door was open, so I ended up getting in there,” Seeler said. “Sometimes that happens.”
Foligno felt the Wild was “bounced around” by the Jets in the playoffs and with the team having a “sour taste” after that series loss, it wanted to respond this season by flexing its strength.
“When Seels gets pushed in there, you gotta do something,” Foligno said. “I think it’s been our motto all year, when one guy gets tagged or does something, everyone steps in and jumps in and helps them.”
Alex Stalock’s assist on Niederreiter’s goal was his league-leading second among goalies. Defenseman Greg Pateryn also assisted on the play, his first point with the Wild.
Matt Dumba had a hand in Fehr’s game-tying goal to extend his point streak to a career-high six games, one shy of tying the franchise record for a defenseman.
Hi, then bye
With Devan Dubnyk sidelined with illness, the Wild recalled goalie Kaapo Kahkonen from the American Hockey League on an emergency basis to back up Stalock. Kahkonen was reassigned to Iowa after the game.
Practice Saturday will be outside at the Recreation Outdoor Center at the St. Louis Park Rec Center. The 11 a.m. session is free and open to the public.