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Byfuglien scores in OT, Jets end Wild's winning streak

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- It was going to take everything the Winnipeg Jets had to score against Minnesota Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk Tuesday.

Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien's goal off a 2-on-1 rush with 59.3 seconds remaining in overtime helped the Jets to a 2-1 win and end the Wild's six-game winning streak.

Byfuglien picked off Minnesota defenseman Jared Spurgeon's pass inside the Winnipeg zone before speeding down the right boards and snapping a shot over Dubnyk's right shoulder for his 14th goal.

"[Byfuglien] made a pretty nice shot, so you have to give [credit] to him," Dubnyk said.

The win moved the Jets (28-18-10) seven points ahead of the Wild in the Western Conference standings, and they continued to occupy the first Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card spot.

"We played a good team game," Byfuglien said of fending off a persistent Minnesota team. "I think we should be happy with what we did, and we stuck to it all the way through. I think for a lot of our young guys it's the closest thing they've seen to a Playoff game so far."

Minnesota (26-20-7) is within two points of the Vancouver Canucks, the second wild-card team, and has three games in hand on Winnipeg.

"I'm obviously disappointed to not get two points, but I'm very pleased with the way that we fought through a tough game," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "You could tell that our energy level was not there, but I think that we grinded it out, and in the end we were able to get a big point."

Dubnyk started his 11th consecutive game since the Wild acquired him from the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14. He was the NHL's First Star of the Week for the week ending Sunday and is 8-1-1 since moving to the Wild. Dubnyk finished with 32 saves, including 15 in the first-period.

Michael Hutchinson made 29 saves for Winnipeg. The rookie found himself in a goaltending duel as he attempted to break his personal four-game losing streak.

"You knew that [Dubnyk] was going to come out and make some great saves, and he did," Hutchinson said. "In games where that happens, you know you have to buckle down. You might only get one or two [goals] on the night."

The Wild arrived in Winnipeg after a 5-3 home win against Vancouver on Monday, but Minnesota's lineup sustained two major losses in that game. Left wing Jason Zucker, who has 18 goals, will miss three months with a broken clavicle. Left wing Ryan Carter will be out for at least a month with an upper-body injury.

Minnesota began the game having allowed 26.8 shots per game, the fewest in the NHL, but Winnipeg had the first 10 shots of the game and at had a 15-3 shots advantage at one point.

"That was a team that knew they were going to pounce on us given the fact that we had played [Monday]," Yeo said. "We weathered the storm a little bit, but you don't do that unless you have great goaltending, and [Dubnyk] gave us that."

Dubnyk's workload lightened in the second period when the Wild began their own push. After the 15-3 shot deficit, the Wild took 17 of the next 22 shots.

The Jets finally solved Dubnyk 7:53 into the third period 24 seconds after killing off a Wild power play. Defenseman Toby Enstrom's low shot from the left point slipped through Byfuglien's screen in front.

"You just had to get comfortable in the game, and you couldn't start doing different things because their goaltender was so good, and we didn't," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "We stuck with it and got a break on a shot to the net, which is what we had talked about."

Minnesota right wing Jason Pominville's 11th goal tied the game at 10:22 of the third period on a shot from the slot after Winnipeg's fourth line was pinned inside its zone. Pominville has two goals and five assists against the Jets this season.

Captain Zach Parise chose to emphasize on the point the Wild collected.

"Looking at the standings, it's really important for us to get every point," Parise said. "Even when they grabbed that 1-0 lead, for us to come back and tie it right away, that's going to be a big point."

With Carter and Zucker out, Yeo made several in-game adjustments to his forward lines against Winnipeg, and he acknowledged that he will continue to examine his lines.

"We're going to have to get some guys more involved, and some guys have to step up now," Yeo said. "It's something that we've already started talking about, and we'll spend the next day-and-a-half talking about."

The Wild's busy schedule continues when they return to Xcel Energy Center to play the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

"There is no way that you can be tired right now," Yeo said. "You can't have that. Every team is going to have tough schedules, and this is why we condition our players hard. Our practices are hard. We've prepared for this, so now that we're in this grind, we should be ready for it."

One plus for Yeo is his recently-acquired goaltender. The Wild were on a six-game losing streak (0-5-1) when Dubnyk arrived.

Since then, Dubnyk has a 1.53 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage with Minnesota. Even resting in his dressing-room stall after starting three games in the past four days, Dubnyk insisted that he is able to handle a busy workload.

"I feel great," Dubnyk said. "It's fun. It's a lot of fun. I feel really good about my game right now. I didn't play as much at the start of the [season], so I definitely feel capable of continuing to go, and it’s my job to continue putting in effort and making [Yeo] want to start me.

"It has been an exciting change for me to come here and play with these guys. We have a really good feeling in here with our group going forward, and that’s a lot of fun to be a part of as well."

A road game Thursday against the Nashville Predators will finish a run of seven consecutive games against Western Conference teams for the Jets. Maurice said they will not dwell on the win for long.

"It feels great," Maurice said. "It was a great battle in a game, a divisional game, and we're going to have an awful lot of these. So we should enjoy it as much as we can, and then let it go.

"Our jump is back, so it's a good feeling that you feel from the bench," Maurice said. "We look like the team before [a 0-4-2 slump after the NHL All-Star Game]. We look right again. We look sharp, and we look quick."

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