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Wild rally past Jets with three goals in second period

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- The situation looked grim for the Minnesota Wild early in the second period against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday.

Depleted by an assortment of illnesses and injuries, Minnesota was losing 2-0 on the road, Winnipeg goaltender Michael Hutchinson looked sharp, and a regulation loss would have left the Wild 11 points behind the Jets in the Western Conference standings.

But three second-period goals lifted the Wild to a 3-2 win at MTS Centre in the second game of a home-and-home set between the Central Division foes. The win ended Minnesota's five-game losing streak (0-2-3) and improved the Wild to 7-1-3 against the Central Division.

"We had no reason to feel down at that time," Wild coach Mike Yeo said of the Jets' first two goals. "It's easy to say, 'Here we go again,' but even in this last little stretch, we have been battling back. So, I wasn't concerned whatsoever that our guys were going to stop playing or get away from things."

The win edged the Wild to with seven points of the Jets in the Central Division standings. Winnipeg had lost once in regulation since Nov. 23 before Monday and was on a five-game point streak (4-0-1) after defeating the Wild 4-3 in overtime at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.

"You always know when you play a team in a back-to-back, and you're able to get the victory in the first game, that they're going to come out and play harder in the second game, so we knew what to expect," said Hutchinson, who made 28 saves.

Darcy Kuemper, who missed the first game of the home-and-home Saturday because of food poisoning, made 28 saves for Minnesota (17-13-4).

"I'm a little tired right now," Kuemper said. "I think the energy is not quite back 100 percent."

Jets coach Paul Maurice started Hutchinson for the third consecutive game, the fourth time in the past five.

Ryan Carter, Justin Fontaine and Marco Scandella each scored a goal for Minnesota. Brett Sutter, recalled from Iowa of the American Hockey League on Sunday, and Kyle Brodziak each had two assists playing on a line with Carter.

Wild right wing Jason Pominville had an assist to extend his point streak to five games (two goals, five assists), and he has points in 12 of his past 15 games (four goals, 11 assists). In three games against the Jets this season, Pominville has a goal and five assists.

The Wild were playing without first-line center Mikael Granlund, who fractured his left wrist Saturday. Granlund had surgery Monday, and the Wild announced that he will be out four weeks. Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin, who sustained an upper-body injury Saturday, did not play Monday.

"You can't use [injuries and illnesses] as an excuse," said Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu, who replaced Granlund on the first line. "But we still recognize that we are missing guys, and we had guys stepping up. It's not an easy thing to do. It's not an easy spot to come in and play a big role like they did."

Michael Frolik and Mathieu Perreault scored power-play goals for the Jets (19-11-7).

"The telling stat is that we had [29] shots blocked," Maurice said. "One, [Minnesota is] very good at it, it's what they do. They give up fewer shots than any [team in the NHL], but it's usually a sign that your feet aren't moving quickly enough to get into the lane to get the shot through."

The Jets had one shot in the first 12 minutes of the game, but they took a 1-0 lead late in the first period when Frolik's snap shot from the right circle slipped past Kuemper on the man advantage at 16:00. It was Frolik's eighth goal; he has at least a point in four of his past six games (two goals, three assists).

Winnipeg closed the first period by killing a Minnesota 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:53 after Dustin Byfuglien and Jay Harrison took back-to-back minors.

Perreault put the Jets ahead 2-0 with a tap-in off a cross-crease pass from Wheeler 20 seconds into the second period. Five of Perreault's nine goals have come in the past five games. Perreault saw his eight-game point streak (five goals, four assists) come to an end Saturday, leaving him one game shy of tying his career-high.

After Perreault scored, the Sutter-Brodziak-Carter line began to chip away at Winnipeg's lead. Carter cut Winnipeg's lead in half at 4:12 when Jets defenseman Paul Postma touched the puck inside the defensive zone and negated an imminent Wild high stick. Carter finished the play with a shot high over Hutchinson for his third goal.

"I thought those guys were doing a great job just playing physically, creating momentum [and] getting to the offensive zone," Yeo said of the line. "I thought that all three of those guys had really strong games."

Fontaine's third goal tied the game 2-2. He took a pass from Sutter and beat Hutchinson from in close with 3:29 left in the second period.

Scandella gave the Wild a 3-2 lead with 11.4 seconds left in the second period with a long slap shot from the left point that deflected off Harrison and eluded Hutchinson. Scandella's goal moved his point streak to a career-high four games (three goals, two assists), and his nine goals tie him for fifth in the NHL among defensemen.

"We could have said 'Here we go again' and just given up, but [there is] a lot of character in this [dressing] room, great leadership and guys kept going," Scandella said.

Kuemper shut down the Jets' third-period push from there. Along with his illness, Kuemper had been pulled twice and allowed 14 goals in his previous four starts entering Monday. With Niklas Backstrom (illness) on injured reserve, Kuemper is Yeo's only established option in net for the Wild for now.

"That's what we need from him," Yeo said of his 24-year-old goaltender. "If we get that kind of goaltending on a consistent basis, we're going to be a dangerous team.

"We know that is what [Kuemper] is capable of, and for sure we are trying to rush a young player along a bit, but that's the reality of where he is at. He's good enough to be a starter and to go out there and continually play games like that, so we need him to continue to step up."

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