Wild start fast, hold off Winnipeg late in 3-2 victory
Scoring first suits any NHL team, but it happens so infrequently for the Wild that it’s like a gift.
Jordan Greenway scored on a centering pass from Eric Staal in the first six minutes, and Jason Zucker added two second-period goals as the Wild beat Winnipeg on Thursday, 3-2, at Xcel Energy Center.
It was just the 15th time in 43 games that Minnesota has scored first this season; they’re now 9-5-1 in those games.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk made 26 saves as the Wild improved to 3-0 against Central Division-leading Winnipeg, which beat the Wild in the playoffs last season and advanced to the Western Conference semifinals. The Jets entered Thursday’s game with ranked fifth in the conference playoff race with 56 points.
Minnesota, which started Thursday ninth in the West with 45 points, won for the fourth time in five games — and for the first time at home since a 5-1 victory over Florida on Dec. 17.
The Wild (22-18-3) dominated play early, keeping the puck consistently in Winnipeg’s end and holding the Jets to one shot on goal in the game’s first 15 minutes.
Minnesota opened the scoring when Eric Staal corralled a pass behind the net and sent a gentle pass between the circles. Greenway, skating into a soft spot in the right circle, quickly controlled it and snapped it past Connor Hellebuyck stick side for a 1-0 lead at 5:40.
Zucker gave Minnesota a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal nine minutes into the second period. With four seconds left in the man advantage, Zucker set up between the circles and deflected a pass from Mikko Koivu, in the right circle, past Hellebuyck before the Jets goaltender could react.
He expanded the lead to 3-0 with a breakaway goal at 17:50.
With Zucker in the box for an iffy tripping penalty, the Wild killed off a Jets power play when Jared Spurgeon blocked a shot and tipped the puck to teammate Zach Parise between the circles — just as Zucker was leaving the box.
Parise spotted his teammate waiting at the Jets’ blue line and lofted a bouncer to him. Zucker took control at the top of the right circle and skated in on Hellebuyck alone before sending a shot into the upper left-hand corner for a 3-0 lead at 17:50.
The goals were Zucker’s 11th and 12th of the season, and his first since an overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Dec. 22. The three-goal advantage, however, was short-lived.
Winnipeg got on the board with 40.8 seconds left in the second period when Brandon Tanev controlled a rebound from Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk and one-time it from the left crease into the top right corner of the net, where it ricocheted off the cross bar but not before passing the goal line.
Winnipeg was playing without forward Dustin Byfluglien, who has four goals and 25 assists in 32 games but has been out since suffering a lower-body injury on Dec. 29.
Author: John Shipley