Kyle Connor said it best.
"Tough way to lose a hockey game."
In what may be the wildest (pun intended) finish to a game of this early NHL season, the Winnipeg Jets saw a two-goal lead and their first win vanish into thin air against the Minnesota Wild. This one was over, with an empty-net goal scored to give the Jets a 6-4 advantage just 1:16 remaining on the clock.
Then, just before the ref dropped the puck at centre, assistant coach Brett McLean appealed to the officials to review the play ... for offside.
The review caught everyone in the arena by surprise. It never crossed the minds of the Wild coaches on the bench that an offside may have occurred.
"Jonas and T.J., full credit to them," Wild coach Dean Evason said, crediting video coaches Jonas Plumb and T.J. Jindra with the last-second decision to call down to the bench for a challenge. "Neither one of them will take credit if you talk to them, but it was a great call.
"We couldn't see them on the far side. Management were talking about it in the room and they said we never even thought about the guy on the offside, and I don't think anyone did."
Added Joel Eriksson Ek: "We didn't think about it on the bench, but they caught it and we got a big break."
It was clear on review that as Mark Scheifele skated across the blue line with an open shot to the net, Connor had glided over the line a sliver before.
"I thought I was good, obviously," Connor said. "I looked at it too. I was offsides there. Just one of those things that a little attention to detail by me. I think, just stay onsides. It's easy as that, win a game."
Less than 20 seconds after the Jets had their insurance goal taken back, Eriksson Ek was credited with his second goal of the game, a fluky bouncer that beat Connor Hellebuyck and tied the game at four, sending the game to overtime.
The Jets had the shot advantage in overtime, too, but then made another costly mistake when Josh Morrissey was given a two-minute penalty for holding. And even though taking a penalty in 3-on-3 overtime is usually the dagger, the Jets still almost won it with a 2-on-1 rush, when Logan Stanley of all shooters was stymied by Cam Talbot.
The Wild went back the other way, and Eriksson Ek completed the hat trick to pull out an unusual victory.
Elation for the Wild and an utter head scratcher for the Jets, who have now started the season winless in three games.
The Wild were playing with a little extra emotion in this game, as they honoured Tom Kurvers, the team's assistant GM who died of cancer in June.
Marcus Foligno noted that perhaps Kurvers played a role in such a crazy finish.
"Today we celebrated the life of Tom Kurvers, and I think he had something to do with that," Foligno said. "When that happened on the bench, I actually thought about Tom. Ekker whacks the puck out of the air, great goal but it's just fluky and you just gotta believe there was a guardian angel over you tonight, and Tom really had our back tonight.
"That's the way we felt all night. We had someone watching us, pushing us."
According to NHL Stats, this is the fifth instance of an empty-net goal being challenged by a team and overturned by review for offside. Interestingly, the last time this occurred it involved the Jets as well – they challenged an Oilers empty-netter for offside last March that came back. The Jets weren't able to turn a loss into a win that night, though.
In fact, Tuesday night was the first time a team-challenged overturned empty net goal lead to a complete flip of the game result.
"I liked it till we were offside on the empty net," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "That's a hard-fought, good-battled game on the road. I liked big chunks of it. Didn't like that last minute and a half."
It could have been Winnipeg's first win of the season, but that's how close this league of parity is. What could have been a nice win to get off the schneid has turned into a bit of early-season panic, with some questioning the coach's future with the team, or which players need to step up.
And all because of a late-game offside that no one on the ice even thought about.