The Wild had more than enough offense to offset what it gave up to the Coyotes on Thursday in Arizona, an 8-5 free-for-all that tied the franchise record for goals in a game while also setting a season high.
But the cool-down in front of 17,319 Saturday afternoon during the team’s return to St. Paul didn’t just trigger a 6-0 about-face at the hands of the Jets. The Wild’s first regulation loss at Xcel Energy Center since the Oct. 12 home opener ended its home point streak (9-0-3) one game shy of the franchise record.
It also emphasized just how much the Wild is getting scored on lately, a spike that helps explains recent struggles; the team has only one victory in its past four games.
“The teams that score a lot of goals one game, they usually say, ‘Geez, I wish we would have saved some for the next game,’ ” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “But I’m more worried about defending. We gave up five and then we gave up six. You can’t win hockey games when your goals-against average is about 3.5. It’s not going to work.”
Since its 11-game point streak ended, the Wild has surrendered five or more goals five times in an eight-game span. Only twice (vs. the Coyotes and Dec. 12 against the Oilers) has the team overcome that barrage, with Winnipeg the latest to pile on the Wild.
Goalie Connor Hellebuyck racked up 31 saves for his third shutout of the season, and 12 different Jets played chipped in on offense; Patrik Laine scored twice, and captain Blake Wheeler’s first-period goal — a shorthanded goal that set the tone — stood up as the game-winner.
“It’s one of those games that you try to do everything right and everything goes wrong,” winger Mats Zuccarello said.
The Wild was off to an energetic start, moving well and applying pressure to Hellebuyck, and it had a chance to open the scoring on the power play.
But instead it was the Jets who capitalized, with Adam Lowry setting up Wheeler for a rising shot off the rush at 14 minutes, 43 seconds. It was the third shorthanded goal given up by the Wild, a blemish that continued the power play’s woes. The unit went 0-for-3 Saturday and is now 2-for-29 since Dec. 3.
“We have to sort of dumb it down a bit,” defenseman Jared Spurgeon said. “We are trying to look for the perfect play to end it. I think when we just shoot pucks is when we seem to open things up.”
With 6 seconds left in the period, the Jets added another — further emphasizing the mismatch between the score and feel of the game.
Just after a deflection by Kyle Connor hit the post and was swept out of the crease by defenseman Carson Soucy, Luca Sbisa’s point shot was tipped in front by Mark Scheifele.
At 10:38 of the second, Laine wired in a shot from the slot and during 4-on-4 action in the third, Nikolaj Ehlers slid in a backhander at 1:09.
“When they scored early in the third, I knew it was, ‘Let’s just get this thing over with right now,’ because I knew there was no jump in our team,” Boudreau said. “You could tell.”
Laine helped the Winnipeg power play go 1-for-4 with his one-timer at 6:15, and Wheeler’s assist on the play gave the Plymouth native and former Gopher 616 career points, making him the franchise’s all-time leader.
Logan Shaw rounded out the scoring at 7:53 with a redirect in front.
Alex Stalock, who suffered his first loss at Xcel Energy Center this season after winning each of his previous five starts, was pulled after that. He exited with 22 saves. Devan Dubnyk made three in relief.
“You have a couple a year where [it’s] kind of a throwaway game,” Stalock said. “Really, throw the tape away.”