Overcoming adversity led to the Minnesota Wild’s 3-2 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.
It may have even more benefits for the Wild as they prepare to host the Winnipeg Jets on Friday in St. Paul, Minn., to begin a five-game homestand.
Due to their team bus being caught behind an accident in Manhattan and arriving two hours later than expected for their clash with the Devils, the Wild players enjoyed a unique adventure and team bonding.
“We had a little bit of a dance party as we got closer and the police escort was on the way, so the boys were in a light mood,” forward Marcus Foligno said. “That’s been our motto all year. That’s been the character of our team, that we don’t let a lot of things get to us and we just stay even keel.
“We were playing ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ on the bus, things like that, a little meditation before the game. These are things you can’t control and we’ve got a close group.”
Minnesota snapped a two-game losing skid by beating the Devils, although the Wild were not at their best. The star was goaltender Cam Talbot, who made 40 saves through overtime and then three in the shootout.
“Usually I get a bike ride in. Didn’t do that,” Talbot said. “It was a little bit of a warmup. Just activation all that kind of stuff, there was no time for really any of that. It was pretty much get dressed, tape your stick and get the pads on … just go out there and get ready to play the game.”
The Jets arrive in Minnesota in the midst of their worst slump of the season, a four-game losing skid extended by a 3-0 road loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday.
Winnipeg, which was atop the Central Division before this swoon, has managed only four goals in the last four games and scored just one power-play goal over nine outings. Their offensive struggles crept into their defensive play in Columbus.
“We’re in one, offensively. We’ve got good shooters missing nets on real opportunities,” coach Paul Maurice said. “There’s going to be a stretch where the puck doesn’t go for you and you’re banging it around. I’m not worried about how are we ever going to score another goal, it’s there, but we can’t have a defensive game like that, coupled with our offensive struggles right now.”
It could be worse for the Jets, too. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has surrendered two or fewer goals in eight consecutive starts.
Now, the quest will be to keep spirits up and make this losing skid just a bump in the road and not spiral out of control. Keeping morale raised appears to be a struggle right now.
“It’s pretty obvious that you don’t want to get on a run of losses,” forward Nikolaj Ehlers said. “We want to find a way to continue playing good hockey, the way we want to play, and score some more goals. But we want to play the right way doing that.
“There’s a lot of fight in this group,” he added.