Kirill Kaprizov scored and tied a career high with three assists to help the Minnesota Wild rout the Winnipeg Jets 7-1 on Friday.
Mats Zuccarello scored twice before leaving after a slash to his wrist, Alex Goligoski, Ryan Hartman, Jon Merrill and Matt Dumba also scored in the start of a five-game homestand. Minnesota is 6-2-0 on home ice, scoring at least four goals in each win.
“This is our chance to establish home-ice advantage. Just coming out and setting the tone early,” said Cam Talbot, who finished with 30 saves.
The Wild have scored seven goals in consecutive home games – they beat Dallas 7-2 Nov. 18 – setting a franchise record with 14 goals in consecutive home games.
Hartman said Minnesota’s performance was textbook.
“That’s our identity. That’s how we play. That’s a prime example tonight of getting to an early lead and extending that lead and trying to take the will out of the opponent.”
Zuccarello went to the locker-room late in the second period after an uncalled slash to the left wrist by Nathan Beaulieu. Coach Dean Evason said Zuccarello could have returned, but with Minnesota comfortably in front he wanted to be safe.
The frustrated Jets have lost four straight, are winless in the past five and the franchise-best streak of 14 games of not giving up more than three goals is over.
Pierre-Luc Dubois scored for Winnipeg. It has scored just five goals on 184 shots over its past five starts, and was blanked 3-0 in Columbus on Wednesday night.
“We need to be a hell of a lot better defensively. That’s the starting point. That’s how you get out of these things,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “If you’re not scoring goals, you can’t go out and sell it all out at all costs to score. We gave up so much off the rush, whether it was dangerous off the rush, it became dangerous after the rush.”
Connor Hellebuyck, who had allowed no more than two goals in each of his previous nine starts, finished with 10 saves before getting pulled early in the second period.
They weren’t all his fault as he was the victim of a couple bad bounces and some horrendous defensive zone play.
Goligoski’s wrist shot from the blue line deflected off Nikolaj Ehlers and found its way through traffic 52 seconds in for a 1-0 lead. A long shot from Zuccarello ricocheted off the post, off Hellebuyck’s upper arm and trickled across the line at 7:47. It was Minnesota’s third shot.
“When we got our legs, we just kept winning the battles and keeping the pucks in,” defenceman Jonas Brodin said. “Everyone was working, everyone had a good game, so I thought it was a good 60-minute game for us today.”
The Zuccarello-Hartman-Kaprizov line connected for two goals 45 seconds apart early in the second period for a 4-0 lead that ended Hellebuyck’s outing. He was replaced by Eric Comrie.
First, Hellebuyck stopped a shot by Kaprizov, but Hartman was left alone beside the blue paint for a rebound. Then a shot from the point by Brodin went to Kaprizov whose cross-crease pass went to a wide-open Zuccarello for a simple redirect.
“We’re playing a little bit fragile. And there’s three zones and we have to care more about every single one of them, starting in our end,” Hellebuyck said.
Winnipeg’s frustration began to show in the second period.
Beaulieu took a run at Goligoski along the end boards, and Evgeny Svechnikov was assessed a double-minor for slashing and roughing a couple minutes later, leading to multiple scrums. Logan Stanley and Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek each went off for roughing 34 seconds later.