The distance between the teams on the scoreboard could have been much wider in the early stages, a gap that reflected the mismatch that played out on the ice.
But not until the waning minutes did the score finally catch up with the feel of the game, as the Wild pulled away late for a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday in front of 19,207 at Xcel Energy Center. The Wiild secured two crucial points against a Central Division rival that had swept the previous three meetings.
The Wild is 12-1-2 at home since Nov. 14.
“It was just a simple, hard-working game by us,” winger Marcus Foligno said. “There was nothing pretty about it. We shot a lot of pucks. We got to the net. We aggravated them with the way we hounded the puck tonight. They turned over a lot of pucks in their zone.
“It was a complete game by us for the first time in a while, so it was a good thing to see.”
In his 200th game with the Wild, goalie Devan Dubnyk — who’s awaiting the arrival of his third son any day now — made 32 saves to stymie the Jets, while defenseman Matt Dumba added two third-period insurance goals.
Twenty-two of goalie Connor Hellebuyck’s 37 saves off 41 shots, which tied a season-high for the Wild, came in the first period, but the Wild converted only once while setting a franchise record for shots in the first period of a game with 23.
On the team’s first power-play chance, winger Mikael Granlund redirected a Ryan Suter shot past Hellebuyck 8 minutes, 47 seconds into the period.
Later in the period, the Wild had 1 minute, 17 seconds of 5-on-3 power-play time but couldn’t capitalize. Overall, the team finished 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
“I think it only channeled us to be more persistent because we were getting opportunities, getting good looks, so guys wanted to keep their foot on the gas,” Dumba said.
The Wild continued to press in the second, with winger Jason Zucker burying a bounce off the end boards at 5:40 for his first goal in eight games. Granlund’s assist on the goal was his fifth in three games and 13th in his past nine. He also tallied his 50th multi-point effort in the NHL and fifth in his past nine games.
After a sluggish start, the Jets did get better — as expected. The Central Division leaders put 17 shots on net in the second and came close on a couple of tries. The team’s best look of the period was a shorthanded breakaway by winger Joel Armia, but Dubnyk poke-checked the puck away.
“I certainly didn’t expect the shots to be 70-15 at the end of the game,” Dubnyk said. “So I figured they were going to come with something eventually.”
The Jets began the third period with 1:49 of power-play time, and that helped them finally beat Dubnyk.
Blake Wheeler, a University of Minnesota alumnus from Plymouth, set up winger Mathieu Perreault for a can’t-miss redirect in front just 47 seconds into the period.
Winnipeg ended up going 1-for-2 with the man advantage.
Having its lead cut in half seemed to ignite the Wild; at 6:23, Dumba delivered a much-needed insurance goal with a blistering shot over Hellebuyck’s glove after accepting a no-look drop pass by Foligno. The goal cooled off the Jets’ rally, but the Wild kept pushing — with Dumba recording his second of the game with 6:28 to go. Foligno and center Charlie Coyle each assisted on both of Dumba’s goals.
“It was great to see our resilience and composure,” Foligno said.
The victory sealed five out of a possible six points on the week, a successful showing regardless of what transpires Sunday at Xcel against the Canucks. But the Wild isn’t content with what it’s accomplished so far.
“We’re still hungry,” Dumba said.
“This is a big one. We’re going to treat it like a huge game tomorrow going into our break. We’ll be satisfied if we get the win.”