Thanksgiving is a special holiday, but it's also considered one of the benchmarks in the NHL standings.
Since 2000, nearly 80 percent of teams inside the top eight of their respective conferences ended up making the playoffs.
Wednesday night, the winner of the Wild-Winnipeg Jets game was going to stay in a playoff position. The loser was going to be on the outside looking in.
Well, despite facing a team that had Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine tearing up the league and Blake Wheeler and Dustin Byfuglien — who usually munch the Wild for fun — Minnesota held the Jets to 16 shots during a 3-1 win.
In a tight-checking affair that didn't feature any of the typical nastiness that often emerges in the border rivalry, Mikko Koivu, Jonas Brodin and Zach Parise each scored, Mikael Granlund had two assists and Devan Dubnyk made 15 saves for the Wild's second win in the past five home games and fourth win in the past 10 games overall (4-5-1).
"We have to get these divisional games," Dubnyk said of the Wild's 3-3-1 record against the Central. "And to hang on in regulation is big. We have been so close this year. We feel like our record could be fantastic right now. We have to start getting these good feelings in here and getting these wins, and they'll start to pile up for us."
The Wild topped two goals in a game for only the second time in the past 10. It was working on a stretch of four goals in nearly 14 periods at home when Koivu scored with 59 seconds left in the second.
Koivu's day was a good one. It started with him, his wife and kids FaceTiming with his brother's family. Saku Koivu, the former Montreal Canadiens captain, turned 42 Wednesday. It ended with Koivu's two kids running up to him in the postgame locker room.
He was proud of how the Wild continued to defend hard despite more offensive struggles.
"When there's a period of time when you're not scoring, you can't get away from the defensive game," he said. "We've got to trust on that, and we've got to trust that if we keep getting these chances that it's going to go in eventually. It's not always easy."
With Bruce Boudreau rolling four lines, the coach elevated Jason Zucker from the fourth line to the second. Boudreau had good talks this week with Zucker, who had no points in nine consecutive games, and saw he was skating hard Wednesday.
The move instantly extracted a goal. Koivu didn't even realize Zucker was on the line until the Wild cleared the Jets' end.
"I saw him going and thought, 'I guess he's with us now,' " Koivu said, chuckling.
After Zucker chipped the puck and then chased it down before a board-battle win with Granlund, Zucker popped the puck to the slot. Koivu corralled the bouncing pass and potted his first goal in 11 games.
Dubnyk was solid, robbing Josh Morrissey and Scheifele in the game. But less than a minute after the Wild couldn't score on a third-period power play, the Jets thought they had tied the score 1-1 when Wheeler deflected Toby Enstrom's shot seemingly from behind the net.
"That tip defied physics," Dubnyk said.
Chris Stewart and Jared Spurgeon immediately told Boudreau the Jets were offside entering the zone. It was close, but for the second time in three home games, the Wild won a challenge and the goal was overturned.
That proved big. Granlund soon drew a power play and Brodin made it 2-0 on a deflected shot.
Wheeler ended up trimming the deficit to 2-1 anyway, but Parise sealed the win with the empty-netter.
"I thought our line deserved that," said Parise, who skated with Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle. "We did a lot of good things. We had a lot of good chances. We made a lot of good plays. We will take it."