WINNIPEG – Jets center Bryan Little arrived in front of the crease and waved his stick.
Teammate Ben Chiarot read the signal.
But the Wild didn’t.
So when the slap-pass was sent to the net by Chiarot, an unmarked Little easily redirected it in — exploiting one of the many defensive breakdowns from the Wild in a 7-2 rout by the Jets, the team’s worst loss of the season.
“It’s a roller coaster right now, and we gotta get this thing stabilized and just play hard,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “It’s one thing to lose if you play hard and if you play the right way. But we’re losing, and we’re not playing the right way right now.”
Aside from giving up a season-high seven goals, the Wild managed a season-low 19 shots on net — an appropriate barometer on just how lopsided the game ended.
But it didn’t start that way.
After weathering an early push by the Jets, the Wild jumped out to a two-goal lead.
Center Charlie Coyle led a three-on-one rush and set up winger Jason Zucker, who lifted a backhand over Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck 8 minutes, 1 second into the first period for his team-leading 13th goal. And the fourth line chipped in when center Matt Cullen dished off to winger Chris Stewart, who slung the puck in for his first goal and point in 17 games — this after the Wild had a goal called back once video review determined the play was offside.
But the Jets rallied, tying it at 2-2 before the period adjourned.
“From about the 13-minute mark on of the first period, we just quit playing,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Winger Joel Armia finished off a loose rebound at 15:47. And then with 2:45 remaining in the period, center Mark Scheifele converted on the power play with a slick back-door one-timer.
“We thought it was going to be easy,” Suter said. “I’m assuming we thought they were just going to back down, and they woke up and came at us.”
The Jets carried that late-period surge into the second, gaining separation amid more porous play in the Wild’s zone.
Scheifele split the defense and then fed the trailer on the play, defenseman Jacob Trouba, who beat goalie Alex Stalock at 10:57. Then with 5:41 left in the period, center Mathieu Perreault was left alone in the slot to unleash a one-timer that put the Jets up 4-2.
It didn’t get any better for the Wild in the third.
Winger Kyle Connor pushed in a loose puck in front at 5:13 on the power play. Captain Blake Wheeler created the chance by cutting to the net — the fifth goal given up by the Wild’s penalty kill in the past two games.
Overall, the Jets went 2-for-4 with the man advantage while the Wild was 0-for-1.
Just 1:05 after Connor’s goal, the Wild surrendered a sixth goal for the second straight game on the deflection by Little.
The Jets added a seventh at 13:26 when Wheeler’s pass during a two-on-one rush banked off defenseman Jonas Brodin’s skate and past Stalock, who finished with 21 saves. Hellebuyck posted 17.
“What could go wrong went wrong,” said defenseman Kyle Quincey, who was a team-worst minus-3 and tagged with 16 minutes in penalties, including a 10-minute misconduct in the third for his role in a post-goal scrum that forced him from the game early. “We had a couple turnovers and breakdowns, and just every chance they had went in.”