Winnipeg Jets rookie G Hellebuyck gets win in debut at Minnesota Wild
SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- A new face in goal was the slump-buster that the Winnipeg Jets needed.Rookie goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stopped 14 shots in his NHL debut as the Jets snapped a six-game road winless streak, beating the listless Minnesota Wi...
SAINT PAUL, Minn. - A new face in goal was the slump-buster that the Winnipeg Jets needed.
Rookie goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stopped 14 shots in his NHL debut as the Jets snapped a six-game road winless streak, beating the listless Minnesota Wild 3-1 on Friday afternoon.
Center Mathieu Perreault, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and left winger Nikolaj Ehlers scored for the Jets (11-11-2), who had gone 0-5-1 away from Winnipeg since a Nov. 4 win in Toronto.
“That was a big part of our mindset going in was to help the kid out as much as possible,” Byfuglien said. “A lot of things have been going wrong around here, and we needed some way to get back to our game plan. New blood in the pipes never hurts, and the kid played great.”
Minnesota got a goal from center Ryan Carter and 26 saves from goalie Devan Dubnyk, as well as an emotional lift from the return of left winger Zach Parise to the lineup. But the Wild (11-7-3) managed little sustained offense throughout, losing their second consecutive home game.
“Disappointed we lost the game, disappointed in how we played the game,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo, whose team has one win in its last six games. “Your whole season is a series of opportunities to get better. There’s no better opportunity than right now. Obviously, the way we’ve been going is not working, it’s not going to work.”
The capacity crowd, which featured a large contingent of visiting Winnipeg fans, got into things right from the start, with right wingers Kurtis Gabriel of Minnesota and Anthony Peluso of the Jets dropping the gloves less than three minutes into the game.
Winnipeg dominated the scoreless opening period, sending 11 shots at Dubnyk, while Hellebuyck had a relatively quiet start to his NHL career, facing just three first period pucks.
“It felt great,” said Hellebuyck, who found out late Thursday that he would get his first start. “I think the team played really well in front of me and blocked a lot of shots, and it showed out there.”
The Jets finally broke the scoreless deadlock with 3:34 to play in the second period. Skating on the Jets’ second power play of the game, Perreault took a pass from Byfuglien, then waited until center Bryan Little had set a screen in front of Dubnyk. Perreault snapped a rising shot over the goalie’s left shoulder for his second goal in as many games.
Byfuglien doubled the lead early in the third period, snapping off a shot from behind the goal line that deflected off Dubnyk’s right knee and landed behind the goalie.
“The best way I can describe it is, I understood the game that we played today, from the bench, and the players did too,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “Everybody was where they were supposed to be and if there was a mistake, it was easy to figure out where the mistake was. There wasn’t any cheat in their game.”
Minnesota finally got on the scoreboard near the midway point of the third. Carter capped off a scramble in front of Hellebuyck when his second-chance shot banked off the shin of Jets defenseman Mark Stuart and slid over the goal line, making it 2-1.
The Wild pressed hard to tie, but their defensive risk-taking led to an Ehlers breakaway with three minutes to play, and he snapped a wrist shot past Dubnyk for his first goal in a month.
Parise, who had missed seven games with a knee injury suffered in the first period of Minnesota’s home loss to Nashville on Nov. 5, got a loud ovation when he was announced as a starter.
“Tough to play when you feel like you’re chasing the puck all game,” said Parise, who finished with one shot in 18 minutes of ice time. “Tough to make plays, tough to make shots when you feel like you never have the puck.”
Minnesota fell to 8-3-0 at home with the loss.