Wild win fourth straight, defeat Jets
By Jess Myers, The Sports Xchange
Minnesota 2 Winnipeg 1
SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild have found themselves in a pattern where they build a lead, let it slip, then rally to win late. For now, it's working, thanks in large part to their goaltending.
Such was the case again Sunday, when center Mikko Koivu scored his second goal of the game late in the third period, snapping a 1-1 tie and lifting the Wild to a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.
Koivu scored late in the first period to give Minnesota an early lead, and he scored again with 3:12 left in regulation as the Wild improved to 10-1-2 at home this season. Minnesota (13-4-4) got 21 saves from goalie Josh Harding in its fourth consecutive win.
"There are going to be ups and downs in a game. Obviously you don't want that to happen, but it's going to happen at some point," said Koivu, who had two goals for the season prior to Sunday. "They got a power play and got a little bit of momentum. That's when you need huge goaltending and we've been getting that all year. He's been awesome."
Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien scored early in the third period, and Winnipeg (9-10-2) was helped by 22 saves from goalie Ondrej Pavelec, but the Jets' four-game winning streak was snapped.
The Wild dominated the first period, outshooting the Jets 9-2, but could not get a puck past Pavelec until the 16:37 mark. Left winger Zach Parise was stuffed at the doorstep, only to see Koivu send the rebound low between the goalie's pads.
Center Kyle Brodziak nearly doubled Minnesota's lead, but he misfired on a breakaway when he was in alone on Pavelec from center ice after a Jets turnover.
"We just didn't shoot the puck and got nothing through from the defense, although we had the puck on the blue line quite a few times in the offensive zone," said Jets coach Claude Noel. "It was a really tough game to lose because I thought our guys were very engaged in the game, really wanted to have a good outcome."
The second period was scoreless, but not for lack of effort on the part of the Jets. Winnipeg flipped the script, outshooting Minnesota 14-8 and repeatedly testing Harding, one of the hottest goalies in the NHL for the past month.
"I'm kind of running out of things to say," Wild coach Mike Yeo said, when asked about Harding improving to 10-0-0 at home. "He keeps going out. It's amazing what that does to your group when your goalie's playing like that, the confidence it gives you to play your game."
Winnipeg finally broke through in the opening minute of the third period. Center Bryan Little's shot from the top of the circle was tipped at the side of the crease by Byfuglien, who recorded his third goal in the past two games.
"They were waiting for us to come at them and turn the puck over. It's not easy to get it in every time, they try to suffocate everything at the red line and they do a very good job of it," said Jets right winger Blake Wheeler. "It stinks to lose a game like that, especially to a team we're trying to catch in our division."
With Pavelec on the bench in the final minute of the game, Parise had a chance at an empty-net goal, but instead tried to pass to Koivu, hoping to set up a hat trick for his linemate.
"You don't get a chance to get a hat trick too often," said Parise. "So I tried to get one over to him but I think I led him too far. I tried to get him a chance to get the third one."
Winnipeg, which has the least-effective power play in the Western Conference this season, again struggled with a man advantage, going 0-for-2 on the power play Sunday. Minnesota also was blanked on two power-play opportunities.
NOTES: Jets D Zach Redmond was on the ice for the first time this season on Sunday. Redmond has been out of action since February, when he was accidentally stepped on by a teammate in practice and suffered a severely cut right leg that required a three-hour surgery. He replaced D Zach Bogosian, out with a lower-body injury, in the Winnipeg lineup. ... Minnesota came into the game leading the NHL in fewest shots allowed per game (24.1) and in fewest 5-on-5 goals allowed this season (18). ... With D Keith Ballard and D Nate Prosser scratched for the Wild, the Jets had two Minnesotans (D Dustin Byfuglien and RW Blake Wheeler) in their lineup, while the Wild had just one (LW Zach Parise). ... Minnesota is off on a four-game road trip, starting Tuesday when the Wild visit the Montreal Canadiens. They will also play in Ottawa, Winnipeg and St. Louis on the trip. The Jets are at home for their next three, starting Monday evening when they host the Calgary Flames.