The Minnesota Wild has 60 minutes to save their season or they'll pack their bags after being ousted from the playoffs in five games for the second season in a row.
"We're not looking at three wins, we're looking at one tomorrow and then we'll shift our focus after that," Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk said Thursday. "Every single guy in here believes."
A win in Game 5 tonight is necessary, and all of the variables are setting up in the Wild's favor, all but one that is: home ice.
"Every good team has to win, usually, one game on the road that's very decisive," said head coach Bruce Boudreau, "and obviously, tomorrow night is a very important game."
The puck drops at 6:30 p.m. in Winnipeg, where the Jets dominated Games 1 and 2 and played to the tune of the best home record in the NHL all season long. It'll likely be another Winnipeg whiteout with arguably the most win-thirsty fans in the entire league.
But Minnesota must take advantage of the Jets possibly being without four of their top six defensemen.
Dmitry Kulikov and Toby Enstrom have missed all four games of the series with injuries, Tyler Myers is unlikely to play for a second straight game and the Jets won't have Mr. Cross-check, Josh Morrissey, who is serving a one-game suspension for jamming his stick into the side of Eric Staal's head.
“For sure, it’s a hole,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said, via the Winnipeg Sun. “We’ve, unfortunately over the past four years, gotten to be pretty good at having defensemen out. That’s standard.”
Only seven teams since 2010 have lost a series after leading 3 games to 1, and Minnesota, to become the eighth, needs to find a way to score on Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck, a Vezina Trophy finalist who blanked them in Game 4.
Scott Campbell, a former NHL star turned writer for the Winnipeg Free Press, expects a ferocious Wild team Friday night, although he says any time they take their foot off the gas they're in danger.
"The Wild can make it interesting when they play their best game — when they’re not, you’re just counting down the time until the next Jets goal," Campbell wrote.
Note: The Wild called up Kyle Rau and Kurtis Gabriel from the Iowa Wild and both are expected to play Friday night.