ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Ondrej Pavelec made 32 saves for his third shutout of the season to help the Winnipeg Jets to a 2-0 win against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Monday.
The Jets (41-26-12) pulled within two points of the Wild for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. They are one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card.
“I thought everybody was involved,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “In the end, it was our discipline. We played a real smart hockey game and stayed out of the scrums.”
Winnipeg’s refusal to take part in extracurricular activities played a starring role.
Less than four minutes into the game, Jets defenseman Mark Stuart got into a shoving match with Wild forward Chris Stewart in the corner. Stewart connected on a jab and was assessed a penalty for roughing.
Winnipeg scored on the power play at 4:12 when Blake Wheeler’s centering pass deflected off defenseman Marco Scandella’s skate and past Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
That goal ended up being the game-winner.
“This is a team that is going to try and draw us into doing stuff,” Wheeler said. “We don’t back out from much out there, but there’s something to be said for keeping your composure this time of year. If you have to take a punch every once in a while like [Stuart] did at the beginning of the game to lead to a power-play goal, those are the things that lead to wins.”
Winnipeg’s power play finished 1-for-4 in the game against the League’s top penalty-killing unit. Minnesota was 0-for-3 with the man-advantage.
“I could tell we were ramped up, right from the start,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “You need to play the game with emotion, but you have to make sure you’re controlling it too.
“We use the word unflappable and I think that tonight we didn’t necessarily have that.”
Jets forward Drew Stafford provided some extra help for Pavelec in the second when a rebound of a shot by Tyler Myers came right to Stafford in the slot, where he quickly put it past Dubnyk at 13:10.
“It was a pretty stingy road effort from us,” Stafford said. “What we did give up to them, (Pavelec) made some big saves. Otherwise, I thought we did a pretty good job of frustrating them and taking away their space.
“It always helps getting a little bit of that goal cushion.”
Pavelec stopped nine shots in the first period, 12 in the second and 11 more in the third as the Wild made a push. Minnesota pulled Dubnyk with 2:04 remaining but had few quality looks.
“Picked up a lot of sticks, our back end our low four did a good job on the shots that came in from the outside,” Maurice said. “A big part of that is how (Pavelec) handled the shots. The rebounds aren’t so dangerous because he controlled so many and kicked a lot to the corners where we were able to recover on.”
Minnesota (44-27-8) has lost its past three games for the first time since Jan. 10-13. It was the Wild’s first loss by more than one goal since Jan. 19 when they lost 3-1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Wild could have clinched a playoff berth with a win in regulation or overtime.
“We have to win, we know that,” said Wild forward Thomas Vanek. “Sometimes, I think this team plays better in a must-win situation. Maybe it’s good for us to get back on the road where we don’t get so pumped up before and don’t start so well.”
Minnesota finishes the season with a three-game road trip against the top-three teams in the Central Division, beginning Tuesday with a game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Wild visit the Nashville Predators on Thursday and St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
The Wild have won 10 straight games away from home, the longest streak in the NHL since 2007.
“It’s more difficult this time of year to prepare and to think about the little things you have to do within your game, as opposed to getting caught up in ‘what happens if we win, what happens if we lose,’” Yeo said. “That’s where you have to be extremely strong. I know we have the group to do it and the leadership to steer those guys in the right direction.”
Winnipeg travels to St. Louis on Tuesday for the second of a three-game road trip that concludes against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. The Jets wrap up the season at home against the Calgary Flames on Saturday.