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A plucky Winnipeg Jets squad gave up a pair of third-period goals and fell 4-3 to a veteran Minnesota Wild team Wednesday night at Xcel Energy Center.
Nelson Nogier, Kristian Vesalainen and Dustin Byfuglien scored for the Jets in their second-last pre-season tune-up. They are 4-2-0 in September, and finish off their exhibition schedule tonight at Bell MTS Place against the New Jersey Devils.
Winnipeg brought a fairly inexperienced roster for the game, as head coach Paul Maurice tries to finalize his lineup. Minnesota dressed the majority of what’s expected to be its opening-night group.
The Wild opened the scoring just over four minutes into the game on a strange play. Byfuglien cut in front of his own net, was stripped of the puck and then watched as it bounced into the net past Laurent Brossoit. Jets forward Andrew Copp just missed gloving it out of the air to safety. The Wild’s Eric Staal was given credit for the goal.
Copp and his linemates helped even things up before the period was over. Nogier took a pass from Copp and beat Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk with a snapshot. Adam Lowry had the other assist.
The so-called shutdown checking line of the Jets has been directly involved in scoring four goals in three road pre-season games.
Vesalainen gave the Jets a lead near the midway mark of the middle frame, grabbing a loose puck in front of the Wild net and backhanding a shot past Dubnyk. Byfuglien got the lone assist on the power-play goal.
It was a big moment for Vesalainen, who’s had a relatively quiet pre-season as he adjusts to the smaller North American ice surface.
Brossoit was beaten later in the period on a Greg Pateryn point shot that went through a maze of traffic. But Winnipeg restored the one-goal lead with 10 seconds left in the period, as Nikolaj Ehlers fired a puck that bounced off Byfuglien before hitting the back of the net. Jack Roslovic had the other assist.
That new-look line of Roslovic, Ehlers and Vesalainen showed chemistry throughout the game.
Minnesota rallied in the final 20 minutes, as Jason Zucker scored on the power play and Jared Spurgeon got the winner with just under five minutes to play.
Winnipeg survived a pair of injury scares. Brandon Tanev took a blast off a foot while killing a penalty and barely made it back to the bench. However, he quickly shook it off and returned to action.
Defenceman Ben Chiarot was cut after being struck in the face with a puck. He went to the dressing room but was back several minutes later after getting stitched up.
Brossoit finished with 24 saves.
Several of Winnipeg’s so-called bubble players who dressed for Wednesday’s game are also expected to see action tonight. The Jets are also likely to play some of their regulars such as Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Bryan Little, Josh Morrissey, Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers and Connor Hellebuyck.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.