Winnipeg Beats Minnesota in first game of home-and-home
The Winnipeg Jets have improved to 21-9-4 on the season thanks to a 4-2 home win over the visiting Minnesota Wild on Saturday afternoon.
The first game of a home-and-home with the Wild saw the Jets pull ahead early, before adding a couple more en route to a decisive 4-2 victory in the first game of two in a span of just 24 hours with their nearest geographical rival.
Nino Niederreiter got two goals for Winnipeg, while Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Alex Iafallo also found the net for the host on Saturday, as Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves for his 17th win of the season.
The game had some interesting moments, much like that of Iafallo's opening goal, which bounced of Jared Spurgeon and Filip Gustavsson before finding the twine. Then, it was Niederreiter who also beat the Wild netminder midway through the first.
He scored his second of the game in the middle frame, before Minnesota battled back on a late-period power play.
The Wild got another in the first 20 seconds of the third, before Jonsson-Fjallby increased the Jets' lead to two, where the score would come to a rest through the full 60 minutes.
Gustavsson did not come back out onto the ice for the third period, so it was Marc-Andre Fleury who took to the net for Minnesota in the final period. He will play career game No. 1,000 on Sunday in the rematch vs. Winnipeg. Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov also left the game following a crosscheck by Brenden Dillon.
The extended photo library from Saturday's game vs. Minnesota is courtesy of Scott Stroh and James Carey Lauder:
Head coach Rick Bowness on Nino Niederreieter:
"There's timing but there's also strength. You've got to be physically strong sometimes to get to the net. Everyone in the league today is taught to box out, don't let guys get to the net. You've got to fight your way through that. Nino's strong enough, when there's opposition, to fight his way through that and you've got to have some hands to put the puck in the net, so. But he has a will and gets to the net and, regardless of who he's up against, he gets there. He does the job. We went after them yesterday about getting to the net, getting to the net, and again, it's got to keep going. You get into this time of the season and it's harder and harder to score those pretty goals. You've just got to grind it out and find a way to get greasy goals."
Nino Niederreiter on his spot in front of the net:
“I think that’s where my office is. I like to be in the paint. I try to get in there as good as possible. It’s always going to create chances. When Scheif gave me the last one for the third one, I guess I've gotta to work on those a little further out as well.”
The Winnipeg Jets now travel back to Minnesota with the Wild for the second game of the home-and-home on Sunday afternoon. The game features a 1:00 PM central start time, much like that of Saturday's contest. Winnipeg then returns home for a single game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.