WINNIPEG – The most vulnerable segment of the Wild’s lineup at the outset of the playoffs was without question its blue line.
Stalwart defenseman Ryan Suter was out of the picture, sidelined for the rest of the season because of a right ankle fracture.
That meant not one but two rookies would be on the ice — a difficult challenge against the second-best offense in the NHL.
But through two games, the Wild’s defense — led by goalie Devan Dubnyk — has done an admirable job of keeping the team competitive with the Winnipeg Jets.
Its offense, however, has struggled to contribute to the cause.
And that issue only became magnified Friday when the Wild was rolled 4-1 in front of 15,321 at Bell MTS Place in Game 2.
The home sweep by Winnipeg was the fourth consecutive series in which the Wild has fallen behind 0-2.
“We had nothing,” winger Charlie Coyle said. “We need to do a better job supporting our D-men here. We didn’t do enough of that. We weren’t giving ourselves any way to succeed.”
After managing only 20 shots in a 3-2 loss in Game 1, including only one in the final 16 minutes, 2 seconds, the Wild had an even worse output in the encore — testing Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck only 17 times.
More that half of those attempts came in the first period, but the team’s inability to capitalize was costly — especially once Winnipeg amplified the pressure after a scoreless opening period.
“Not generating enough quality to produce any goals,” said center Eric Staal, whose line with Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter combined for just five shots.
A crushing blow from defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was the catalyst for the Jets, as he creamed captain Mikko Koivu behind Winnipeg’s net during a strong penalty-killing effort by Koivu.
That hit seemed to energize the Jets even more, and at 8:41 of the second, Winnipeg converted when defenseman Tyler Myers cut around Zucker and sent the puck by Dubnyk’s right side.
The Wild, meanwhile, struggled to stay in the offensive zone. Even connecting passes was a rarity.
“Too many broken plays through the neutral zone,” winger Zach Parise said.
Winnipeg, however, had no problem getting up ice, tacking on three more goals in the third.
Center Paul Stastny buried a behind-the-net feed from Byfuglien at 7:42, and then winger Andrew Copp tipped in a puck after the Wild failed to clear the zone.
Winger Patrik Laine wired in the fourth with 2:02 to play.
“For the most part, we were OK,” said Dubnyk, who totaled 40 saves, a career high for a playoff game. “We were down a goal, but you start doing things in the third period that just aren’t going to work against this team — turnovers on the wall, lost guys. There’s just too much firepower there, and that showed.”
A redirect by Parise with 45 seconds to go on the power play, his franchise-best 13th playoff goal, spoiled Hellebuyck’s shutout bid — one of only two shots for his line with Koivu and winger Mikael Granlund. The Wild went 1-for-4 with the man advantage, while the Jets were 0-for-2.
But it was too little, too late for the Wild, especially since the team had only three shots on goal in the third period, and the first came with less than five minutes remaining.
The team returns home searching for solutions ahead of a pivotal Game 3.
“We’ll find a way,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “We have all year. There’s no reason to believe we aren’t going to find a way on Sunday.”