WINNIPEG – The game was won by the veterans but it was really a night to take a look at rookies as the Winnipeg Jets fell 14 seconds short of a shutout, beating the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Monday in the pre-season opener for both teams.
Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson were both solid in net for Winnipeg.
The Wild needed two extra forwards after pulling their goalie and getting a power play in the final seconds to get one past Hutchinson, who looks like a good bet to graduate to the NHL this season as Pavelec’s backup.
Rookie forwards Adam Lowry, Nic Petan and Nik Ehlers as well as defenceman Josh Morrissey all got a fair amount of ice time for Winnipeg
Lowry, at six foot five and just over 200 pounds, seemed the most comfortable, although coach Paul Maurice said it’s too early to say much after just one game.
“They each at times showed what they do for a living and what they’re good at,” he said. “They all had their moments. Their speed or their strength or their playmaking ability. We’ll just look to see a little more of it.”
“I thought I felt pretty comfortable out there,” said Lowry. “I was able to get on the body early in the game and I felt like that really gave me some confidence to play against their top guys and I felt I was strong on the pucks when I had opportunities to be.”
For Minnesota, promising rookie Tyler Graovac, who spent last season with the Iowa Wild in the AHL, scored their lone goal.
He also had four of their 28 shots on net, second only to Nino Niederreiter, the 22-year-old Swiss import who had 36 points last season when he was a rookie and three playoff goals.
The game was scoreless well through the second period when Dustin Byfuglien slammed the puck past Ilya Bryzgalov at 14:15 from the blue-line on a Winnipeg power play.
It’s a trademark shot for Byfuglien, back in his comfort zone on defence because Winnipeg was on the power play. He’s a forward, on a line with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little, at even strength.
Byfuglien’s slapshot was in the corner of the net before the veteran netminder closed his glove. Bryzgalov wasn’t re-signed by the Wild but was invited to camp on a tryout contract after Josh Harding broke his foot.
Little made it 2-0 early in the third, slipping another behind Bryzgalov from a scramble beside the Minnesota net.
The Wild outshot the Jets 28-18.
The Jets didn’t dress last season’s top scorer Blake Wheeler or Evander Kane and gave last season’s star rookies Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba the night off. Wheeler, Scheifele and Kane are expected to be one of Winnipeg’s top lines this season.
Minnesota didn’t bring stars Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu or Ryan Suter.
Both put their starters in the net for the first half of the game but switched them midway through the second period, with Hutchinson taking over from Pavelec in the Jets net and Bryzgalov replacing Niklas Backstrom for the Wild.
Backstrom is back after his second major surgery in the last couple seasons.
The Wild are already a playoff contender but Maurice is trying to remake the Jets into a more defensive team to get them to the same level.
He said they weren’t as aggressive as they could be in their own zone Monday.
“We’ve had one day where we focused on defensive-zone coverage,” he said. “It was OK tonight. It will get better.”