The Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets made up for lost time on Tuesday night.
In the first matchup against each other for the first time since January 2020, the Central Division foes reignited a rivalry in Minnesota’s 6-5 overtime win that was … well … a Wild game. The 11-goals included a Joel Eriksson Ek’s tying – and game-winning goals that came after the Jets empty-netter was wiped out by an offsides call.
And it came in front a crowd of 18.516 that packed the Xcel Energy Center and gave the Wild’s home opener a playoff atmosphere. It also gave the Wild their first 3-0 start to the season since 2015.
“Absolutely incredible,” Wild coach Dean Evason said of the crowd in a postgame media session. “Like in the third period, we all got goosebumps the way they all stood up in unison at one point in a timeout and cheered. They gave us boost, they gave us a kick at the end to go forward. Our guys appreciated (the support). It’s so exciting to have fans back … but our fans were phenomenal tonight.”
The Jets and Wild had not played each other since Jan. 4, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic but quickly became reacquainted on Tuesday. The two teams traded punches in the first period both figuratively and literally.
The teams combined for four goals in the opening period — which ended in a 2-2 tie — as well as a heavyweight fight between the Wild’s Marcus Foligno and Winnipeg defenseman Brenden Dillon.
The two circled each other for a moment before Foligno hopped up and threw a right at Dillon — a “Superman punch” that was a move that former NHL defenseman Kevin Bieska often employed.
“A last-second decision,” Foligno said. “Just change it up — different fighting ways. You go into a fight a little bit defensive and Dillon’s a tough guy and I’ve seen him punch early before, so just tactics.
It was a moment that electrified an already charged-up crowd even more.
“That was a lot of fun,” Foligno said. “I think the fans really enjoyed that one tonight and we did too. We wanted to win the first one at home and give our fans something to cheer about because it’s been a long time without them. Nothing better than picking right up with a rivalry with Winnipeg.
“They’re always a good team and they’ve got a lot of good players,” Foligno said. “They’re trying to play physical … it was important to match their intensity.”
The Wild, behind their crowd, did that and more.