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Hellebuyck wins debut; Jets defeat Wild, Parise

by Dan Myers / NHL.com

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 14 saves in his NHL debut, helping the Winnipeg Jets defeat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 at Xcel Energy Center on Friday.

"Once I got on the ice I got comfortable, because it's just another game of hockey," Hellebuyck, 22, said. "Huge milestone, but the way you've got to look at it is just another game."

Mathieu Perreault, Dustin Byfuglien and Nikolaj Ehlers scored for Winnipeg (11-11-2), which ended a six-game road losing streak.

"This game was important because of how it was played, not the result. It was played in a way that you can say, 'That's our game, that's the game that we can have some confidence in,' so the result is almost secondary," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "If that game hadn't turned out that way, but we had played that well, we'd be trying to play the same game tomorrow night."

Forward Zach Parise played for Minnesota (11-7-3) after missing eight games with a sprained right knee. The Wild lost its second straight home game after starting 8-1-0 here.

"I think our record might be a little misleading," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "There was a lot of inconsistencies in our game, and early in the year I think you get away with that stuff; you show the video and maybe it gets a little bit better. But when you're winning games, I don't think those things sink in.

"I think we're playing the same game that we were at the start of the year, but the League gets better and we're not getting away with those things. This is maybe a good kick in the [rear]."

Winnipeg played an exceptional defensive game in front of its rookie goalie, limiting the Wild to three shots on goal in the first period and 10 through two.

Perreault took advantage of a power play late in the second period to give Hellebuyck some support. Perreault's shot from the right circle eluded Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk on his glove side under the crossbar at 16:26.

"He needs to shoot it when he gets the chance to shoot it; we don't need to keep looking for a better and better shot," Maurice said. "We had a perfect net-front screen and he can pick corners."

Byfuglien made it 2-0 when he surprised Dubnyk with a shot from behind the goal line, banking the puck off the goaltender's right pad at 2:24 of the third period.

"Just threw it at the net. It's just one of those bounces. It got in somehow," Byfuglien said.

Ryan Carter ended Hellebuyck's shutout with 10:51 remaining in the third period when he banked in a shot off Jets defenseman Mark Stuart near the left post.

"They made it a little tough," Parise said. "It's tough to play when you feel like you're chasing the puck all game. It's tough to make plays, it's tough to get shots when you never had the puck."

Ehlers took advantage of the overaggressive Wild late in the game, getting behind Minnesota's defense and scoring on a breakaway with 3:00 remaining. The goal ended his 15-game drought.

"Really important, more because he was skating tonight," Maurice said. "He played as good a defensive game as anyone else in that lineup tonight so it's good feedback for him."

Hellebuyck was 130th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft out of the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He was recalled from Manitoba of the American Hockey League on Sunday, a day before the Jets put goalie Ondrej Pavelec on injured reserve with a knee sprain that is expected to keep him out into January.

Winnipeg plays at the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday; Minnesota hosts the Dallas Stars.

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