WINNIPEG — Goalie Connor Hellebuyck and the Winnipeg Jets may have lost in overtime — but they enjoyed themselves doing it.
Hellebuyck was in net for the third period and Winnipeg’s 1-0 overtime exhibition loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday, but the result came after the club’s first opportunity to play a lively three-on-three in the extra five minutes.
“It’s really exciting,” Hellebuyck said of the new overtime format that will debut in the NHL this season. “I think the fans like it. As players, we’re just going to keep getting better at it. I like it.”
Matt Dumba scored with 48 seconds left. The defenceman took a pass from winger Justin Fontaine and sent the puck high past Hellebuyck to give the Wild a 1-1 exhibition record.
Niklas Backstrom made 28 saves for the shutout in Minnesota’s net.
Minnesota had played a scheduled trial 3-on-3 overtime against Buffalo on Monday, a 3-2 loss for the Wild in regulation. Zach Parise scored for Minnesota during that overtime.
It was Winnipeg’s first exhibition game in front of a capacity crowd at MTS Centre and fans cheered their first look at the overtime, which will still be followed by the shootout if the score remains tied.
“You’re trying to get your feet under you and find your groove,” Dumba said. “It’s going to be choppy.
“I am always hard on myself and it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary… It was a 0-0 game on the road and pucks were bouncing all over the place.”
Hellebuyck, who played 58 games last season for the American Hockey League’s St. John’s IceCaps, stopped six of the seven shots he faced.
Ondrej Pavelec, who helped guide the Jets into the playoffs last season, looked sharp in the first two periods, making a couple of close-in saves late in the second. After turning aside 19 shots, he was replaced at the beginning of the third.
Shots on goal after two periods favoured the Wild 19-16.
“A lot of scoring chances, at the same time a lot of mistakes, but that’s a typical exhibition game,” Pavelec said. “But it was fun. We saw the (new) overtime. A lot of scoring chances in overtime. One mistake and it’s an odd-man rush and then it’s a huge scoring chance.
“But I still think it’s more fun than the shootout. That’s for sure.”
Jets head coach Paul Maurice also approved of the new overtime.
“It’s exciting as heck,” Maurice said. “It’ll be interesting to watch it evolve over the course of the year when more strategy comes into play and teams start running more defined routes and you get groups of your three guys that you’ll keep together.”
Wild head coach Mike Yeo liked his team’s rebound from Monday.
“Comparing last night to tonight, I think we did a much better job,” he said. “(Backstrom) was great. I mean, all game long he looked very controlled right from the start of the game. Some shutouts are made by not making a ton of quality chances, but he made a lot of key saves through the course of the night.”
The game was the first opportunity for fans to see $12 million of renovations to the rink, including a new, larger high-definition scoreboard and extra seating that brings capacity up to 15,294.
NOTES: Fans had a chance to cheer before the game as Randy Bachman of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive fame played both national anthems on his electric guitar without singing, and paused so fans could yell “True North” during the Canadian anthem. … Winnipeg plays the Oilers in Edmonton on Wednesday. Minnesota visits Columbus on Thursday.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press