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Vanek scores two goals in Wild's win against Jets

by Dan Myers /

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Among the 304 career goals he's scored in the NHL, Minnesota Wild forward Thomas Vanek has had some that have made highlight reels.

He had another Tuesday in a 5-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center.

With the Wild up 3-1 midway through the second period, Mikael Granlund transitioned a neutral zone turnover into a scoring opportunity the other way, hitting Vanek along the left wall. Alone with defenseman Paul Postma, Vanek threw the puck between his legs, walked around Postma and put a shot past Ondrej Pavelec and under the crossbar for his second goal of the game.

The goal, his sixth, ended up being the game-winner and was one of four scored by the Wild in the second period.

"I just tried something. Obviously it worked out well," Vanek said. "Just a 1-on-1 opportunity, I had good speed coming through the neutral zone."

The game was tied 1-1 after the first period, thanks in large part to seven saves from Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

Playing without forward Zach Parise, who missed his second game because of a sprained right MCL, Wild coach Mike Yeo decided move Vanek to a line with Granlund and Jason Pominville.

The move paid off; Vanek scored twice in a span of 5:24 in the second, sandwiched around a shorthanded goal by Erik Haula.

"I just didn't feel we were going to win the game with the way we were going," Yeo said. "With the depth of their forwards, I felt like we needed to make a switch. I felt that Thomas was giving us an opportunity. He was strong in the first period."

Nino Niederreiter and Chris Porter had goals for Minnesota (9-3-2) and defenseman Jared Spurgeon had two assists.

Dubnyk, who made his sixth consecutive start, finished with 25 saves.

Bryan Little had two goals and an assist for the Jets (8-6-2), who got a goal from Blake Wheeler. They scored 2:35 apart midway through the third period to get Winnipeg within 5-3.

"They got in behind us twice and we got beat 1-on-1," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "We'll build on our first two periods. That's where we need to get better."

Minnesota got on the board first on Niederreiter's fifth at 3:44 of the first when he collected his own rebound in front and shoved it past Pavelec.

Little tied the game eight minutes later with a one-handed tip in front of a shot by Dustin Byfuglien from the point at 11:45.

Vanek began Minnesota's offensive onslaught at 4:30 of the second, capping a breakaway with a slap shot from the high slot that beat Pavelec over his blocker.

Less than two minutes later, Haula went in on a breakaway of his own, putting a wrist shot past Pavelec for a shorthanded goal at 5:59.

"It was a good momentum builder. As a team, we were playing good," Haula said. "We were missing some guys, so it's nice to have everyone step up here and there. A good team win."

Vanek's second goal made it 4-1 at 9:54 and chased Pavelec; he allowed four goals on 12 shots, giving way to Michael Hutchinson.

Porter's first goal with the Wild came on a deflection in front at 12:44, giving the Wild a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes.

"We can't rely on our goalies to make those kind of saves like that," Little said. "We gave up some chances and they scored on them. It was just a let-up by us."

Winnipeg rallied for two goals late but could not get any closer. Hutchinson finished with 15 saves.

"I don't know why it took us to get down 5-1 before turning it on like that, but that's the way we have to play, with some desperation," Little said. "It's early in the season, but these are big points against teams in our division. We have to find a way to come out like we ended it."

The Wild was without defenseman Marco Scandella, who missed the game for personal reasons. His status for Minnesota's upcoming four-game road trip, which begins against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, is unknown.

The Jets continue with the second game of a four-game road trip, all against Central Division foes, against the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

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