ST. PAUL, Minn. — Jason Zucker scored twice, giving Minnesota’s lagging power play a lift with his first goal and getting one later just after leaving the penalty box, and the Wild hung on to beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 on Thursday night.
Jordan Greenway also scored and Devan Dubnyk made 26 saves for the Wild, who have won all three games against the Jets so far this season by a combined 10-5 score after losing to their Central Division rival in five games in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
Brandon Tanev gave the Jets some life with his goal in the final minute of the second period to cut the lead to 3-1. Then, with Connor Hellebuyck having already vacated the net, Mark Scheifele scored with 2:38 remaining in the game to bring the Jets within one. The Wild went without a shot on goal in the third, the first time in franchise history that happened to them at home in any period.
The Jets managed just one shot on goal over the first 15-plus minutes of the game, and the Wild actually had a lead to match the effort. Defenceman Jared Spurgeon hustled to keep a loose puck in possession in the offensive zone and sent it along the wall to Staal, who fed Greenway from behind the net . This was only the 15th time in 43 games the Wild have scored first. They’re 9-5-1 in those instances.
The Wild had only one power-play goal in their previous 23 opportunities, all without defenceman Matt Dumba, who’s still second among NHL blue-liners this season with 12 goals and ruptured the pectoralis muscle near his right shoulder on Dec. 15.
Midway through the second period, with a man advantage for the Wild, a turnover led to a short-handed breakaway for the Jets and a snap shot by Adam Lowry that caromed off the left post. The Wild quickly regrouped after the fortunate bounce and went back the other way for Zucker’s score in the waning seconds of Kyle Connor’s tripping penalty.
A few minutes later, as he hustled back and forth at the point of the penalty kill and fearlessly blocked shots with his body, Zach Parise snagged the puck at the end of a Jets power play and flipped a lob pass up the ice for a wide-open Zucker who managed to stay onside after he returned to the ice from his hooking penalty. Zucker beat Hellebuyck in the upper-left corner at the end of the breakaway for a 3-0 lead.
The Jets had scored 12 goals in their last two games, including four in seven power-play chances.
Zucker, who was second on the Wild last season with a career-high 33 goals, scored only once over his previous 14 games. Zucker is tied with Mikael Granlund for third on the team with 12 goals, squarely among the players they need to pick up their production over the second half of the schedule to make a return to the playoffs.
The Wild won at home for the first time in five tries since Dec. 13. … The Jets were scoreless in four power plays. The Wild have killed 15 of their last 16 penalties at home. … Scheifele tied Patrik Laine for the team lead with his 24th goal. … Wild centre Eric Fehr missed his second straight game with an undisclosed injury. … Spurgeon had two assists, his third multi-point performance in five games this month. … Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, one of two Minnesota natives on the team, missed his fifth straight game with a lower-body injury that will likely keep him out until after the All-Star break.
Jets: Return home to face the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.
Wild: Host the Red Wings on Saturday night.
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Dave Campbell, The Associated Press