The Winnipeg Jets and Minnesota Wild reached the midpoint of the NHL season the same way — with a three-goal loss at home to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Both teams will look to start the second half of the campaign in better fashion when they meet Saturday afternoon at St. Paul, Minn.
The Jets were the latest to fall to Toronto in a 6-3 defeat Thursday night as goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was pulled after allowing five goals on 17 shots through two periods.
Hellebuyck has allowed four or more goals in six of his past nine games to quiet any talk of his Vezina Trophy candidacy.
“He’s gonna want two or three of those back when he looks at the video,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “I’m not gonna even call those bad goals, but we’ve got (Saturday’s game against Minnesota) coming up, there’s no rest for us, so that’s why I pulled him in the third.
“He and I have talked about it over time that, at some point, he’s gonna want to be left in a game because he can fight through it. He’s earned it. In the Colorado game (a 7-4 victory over the Avalanche on New Year’s Eve), he fought in the net and was a big piece to that win.”
The Maple Leafs scored twice in the opening nine minutes — both off Winnipeg turnovers — before the Jets rallied to tie the score early in the second. But Toronto scored three times in the period to pull away.
“We had a couple of tough turnovers to start and we’re down two,” Maurice said. “Then we’re right for a big chunk of the game after that. We did an awful lot of good things to get it tied. Then we got behind it again and that was the game.”
The Wild have been idle since a 4-1 defeat to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.
That left Minnesota (19-17-5) four points behind Winnipeg (22-16-3) for a wild-card playoff berth.
“There are a lot of people are saying we’re doing good right now,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We are still out of a playoff position, so it’s one of these things where we have to make hay when we’re at home because it doesn’t get any easier.”
The loss to the Maple Leafs was Minnesota’s second in a row at home, the first time that has happened this season. The Wild had a 3-1 defeat to the New York Islanders on Sunday.
“Disheartening,” Wild forward Zach Parise said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We played a good game (a 6-4 win on the road against the Colorado Avalanche) and responded with a couple of duds back here. Not ideal.”
The Wild allowed two first-period goals against Toronto and never recovered.
“We couldn’t get back in the game the way we wanted,” said forward Mikko Koivu, who returned after missing a few weeks with a lower-body injury. “I guess the bottom line is just we have to be better from the start and pretty much for 60 minutes.”
–Field Level Media