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Zucker off the schneid following two-goal night in win over Jets

Forward had scored just once in previous 14 combined games

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe /

ST. PAUL -- Few in the Wild dressing room are more self-critical of their own play than forward Jason Zucker.

So when Zucker went without a goal on the Wild's four-game road trip, when he couldn't spark an offense that had scored one goal in the final two games of that trip and when he had scored just one goal in the team's previous four contests, Zucker had some harsh words for his own play following a loss in Boston on Tuesday night.

"Working hard is not good enough. We've got to find a way to do it," Zucker said. "We've got to find a way to be leaders on the team and score goals like we're supposed to be doing and right now we're not doing that."

Zucker answered the challenge on Thursday, scoring a pair of goals -- including the game winner -- in a 3-2 victory against the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center.

And he did it in typical Jason Zucker style: Scoring from close to the net.

His first goal came via a beautiful redirection following a perfect setup by captain Mikko Koivu. His second on a breakaway feed from Zach Parise, who sprung Zucker in alone out of the penalty box.

Video: WPG@MIN: Zucker redirects puck home for PPG 

"He did what he's supposed to do. He goes to the front of the net. That's how he gets goals, too, a lot of them," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "But I'm used to seeing him on breakaways, so he felt good. That's why he was out at the end of the game. He got rewarded for doing a good job."

Boudreau met with a couple of slumping players this morning, among them, Zucker. 

But his meeting wasn't meant to fire up the player ... instead, he wanted to reinforce his belief in Zucker.

Tweet from @mnwild: "I was definitely very critical of myself and I think I deserved that, so it was nice to be able to get those couple, but I've got to do it consistently now." �����Jason ZuckerMore from the locker room after #WPGvsMIN 👇

"It wasn't the, 'You better get your act together.' It was the reassuring type of tone," Boudreau said. "'I've been here 2 1/2 years. I know he's a good hockey player, and I hate watching you come off the ice looking so down all the time. So it's time you had a chance to have some fun.'"

Whatever the coach said, it worked.

Zucker tallied his second multi-goal game of the season and his first since Oct. 11 against Chicago. He had five such games in 82 games a year ago, en route to a 33-goal season.

Video: WPG@MIN: Zucker pots second goal on breakaway

"I was definitely very critical of myself and I think I deserved that, so it was nice to be able to get those couple," Zucker said. "But I've got to do it consistently now. I can't be happy with just one game and a couple goals and shut it back down."

In addition to Zucker, the Wild's penalty kill was outstanding, closing out all four Winnipeg power plays and setting up Zucker's breakaway goal in the second period. 

The Jets entered the game second in the NHL in power-play success rate.

Tweet from @mnwild: Bruce Boudreau on the big #mnwild win, Zucker bouncing back and more after #WPGvsMIN 👇

"That's the only word you can use for it. [Wild assistant coach] Bob [Woods] had put a great plan together, and everybody knows what these guys are going to do. It's just very, very difficult to stop them when they're doing it because they're so good," Boudreau said. "But we did a good job. Of course, they're missing [Nikolaj] Ehlers and [Dustin] Byfuglien but I thought that was the key is the penalty killing tonight four times."

The Wild has now won four of its past five games with Thursday's game marking the beginning of a stretch of five of six games at home.

The hope is Minnesota has turned a corner and can now build on it in the seven-game sprint before the All-Star break later this month.

"When we were playing well, we just weren't scoring, and that takes a toll on your confidence. But guys are playing well now and not cheating for offense," said Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who had two assists on Thursday. "After the last game, we wanted to play right back in it. I thought we played well."


Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 3, Jets 2

Video: Zucker's two goals lift Wild to 3-2 win against Jets

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