Winnipeg rookie Connor Hellebuyck became the first goalie to shut out Minnesota this season, and the Jets used an early goal by Blake Wheeler to beat the Wild 1-0 on Friday night.
Hellebuyck, who won his NHL debut at Minnesota on Nov. 27 with a 3-1 decision, made 24 saves. Detroit is now the only remaining NHL team that hasn’t gone scoreless in a game this season.
With Alexander Burmistrov called for tripping with 2:42 left, the Wild had a power play that went to a 6-on-4 when coach Mike Yeo pulled Devan Dubnyk. But the two-man advantage wasn’t enough to keep the Wild from falling to 2-5-1 in their last eight home games.
Just 3:07 into the game, the Jets were on the rush as Wheeler patiently worked on Wild defenceman Jonas Brodin before toe-dragging into the slot and sending a wrist shot past Dubnyk for the early lead as Brodin fell down. That was Wheeler’s third goal in the last four games after going 12 games in a row without scoring. He leads the Jets with 44 points in 45 games.
Then Hellebuyck and the Winnipeg defence went to work against a Minnesota team that has not had much life lately.
The Wild killed off 54 seconds of a 5-on-3 against them in the second period and kept themselves in it without making any glaring mistakes, but the energy in the forecheck was missing as the crowd grew restless deeper into the game. They managed only four shots on goal in the middle period.
The Jets, still seven points behind the Wild with an extra game played, have had their own struggles lately. They wasted a 4-1 lead over Nashville the night before, pulling out a victory on Wheeler’s overtime winner. Wheeler even questioned the team’s commitment earlier in the week. After making the playoffs last season for the first time since the franchise moved to Manitoba in 2011, the Jets have been trying to find their way again.
But with Ondrej Pavelec out until at least late January with a knee injury suffered on Nov. 21, Hellebuyck has been a big boost in goal for the Jets. He raised his record to 11-6-1, having started for the 10th time in the last 11 games.
The Wild packed up afterward for a Saturday night game at Nashville, starting a stretch of seven out of eight games on the road.
This marked the one-year anniversary of Dubnyk’s first game with the Wild, the day after he was acquired in the season-salvaging trade.
Despite the loss, he’s 45-22-6 since the deal, leading all goalies in the league in games played. Dubnyk has given up two goals or fewer in seven of his last nine games. He stopped 25 shots in this one.
NOTES: Hellebuyck’s other shutout was a 1-0 win over Pittsburgh on Dec. 27. ... The last time the Wild were shut out in the regular season was by Winnipeg, a 2-0 loss here last April 6. ... Lagging production persisted for some of the Wild’s top forwards. Jason Pominville has no points in the last 11 games. Charlie Coyle has just one assist in the last seven games. Mikko Koivu has two assists in the last nine games. ... With Adam Lowry and Drew Stafford scratched with undisclosed injuries, the Jets moved defenceman Adam Pardy up to forward. This was the first game Stafford missed this season. ... Jets defencemen Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers, who were banged up on Thursday, were OK to play. ... The Jets have won three out of four games against the Wild this season.Report Typo/Error