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Recap: Wild blow up Jets, win 4-1

A satisfying victory over the divisional rival.

Minnesota Wild v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

It doesn’t always come as easy as it did tonight. The Minnesota Wild appeared to be the much better team for most of the game against the Winnipeg Jets and it showed up in the score, as they walked away with a 4-1 win.

A complete team effort with Sam Steel, Mats Zuccarello, Frederick Gaudreau, and Jared Spurgeon all notching two points each. And just to add to the feeling-good-about-ourselvesness, Filip Gustavsson was given the start after the holiday break and stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced to extend his excellent season.

The Wild started the game looking like they were the team that won six of their last seven games before the holiday break. Forechecking like mad, every line wanted that puck if they didn’t have possession of it and it wasn’t so much about individual talent, but an unrelenting wave of pressure that the opposition surely felt.

That pressure eventually led to the Jets taking a high-sticking penalty and the Wild opening the scoring shortly there after.

It was all up to the captain to neatly put one home behind Connor Hellebuyck, with a close shot that no goaltender could handle after a very solid play up the ice from Sam Steel and Ryan Hartman, who earned the two available assists.

And just 64 seconds later, that wave kept on rolling on as Kirill Kaprizov got on the ice and immediately connected with his brother Mats Zuccarello for the Wild’s second goal.

Riding high, the confidence was rising as the Wild began to play a little more loose and utilizing the space that they had, instead of focusing on the north-south skating that has led to more success.

Unfortunately, feeling just a little bit above the competition can lead to some silly things. Ryan Hartman took a penalty and right after the Wild successfully killed off that penalty, Pierre-Luc Dubois cut Minnesota’s lead in half after honestly, a great deke through some defenders.

Yeah, I mean, you have to give credit when credit is due, because that was pretty.

After the Jets were able to get a goal, they were feeling themselves and slowly began to narrow the gap between them and the Wild in terms of shots and attempts. It came in little spurts, but the Wild began to slow down in transition and were certainly more susceptible to hanging out in their own zone for longer than they should have, with skaters not moving as much as we have become accustomed to.

To finish the first period, the two teams kept on trading scoring chances but in the end, the score stayed the same.

The second period started the same as the first ended — both teams were just trading off opportunities to score with neither really taking full control of the game. Adam Beckman got to chip in with a single shift where he had his shot ring off the crossbar and then later in the same very shift, he swerved around the Jets net and set up Jonas Brodin for a very good scoring chance. But just nothing could get past Hellebuyck or even really make him sweat.

Overall, far too many of the Wild’s actual attempts were basically from the blue line in the first 10 or so minutes of the second period. So sometimes it takes an extraordinary individual play to really break through and get another one.

Zuccarello decided to pull off another incredible move this season and put the puck perfectly on Frederick Gaudreau’s stick from the boards with a saucer pass that there are not enough adjectives to properly describe, to put the Wild up 3-1 about halfway through the middle frame.

For the rest of the second period, the Wild carried the momentum of seeing Zuccarello’s incredible pass and pushed the Jets even further into their own zone. While too many chances were coming from long-range, Minnesota solely focused on getting right in front of Hellebuyck and annoying the hell out of him.

It didn’t lead to more goals, but it at least gave us more comfort that the Wild could hopefully close this game out.

And speaking of closing out, the entire third period was the Wild suffocating any Jets offense and really not letting them attempt any comeback whatsoever. Eventually, it was capped off by Sammy Walker scoring his first NHL goal via an empty-netter.

Not the most exciting, but just always good to get that first one.

Wild win 4-1 over a divisional rival and now have just one single point separating these two teams sitting in second and third in the Central. A tight one, it is.

Burning Questions

How will the rookie reinforcements look?

Well! Sammy Walker managed to get his first NHL goal but honestly, it was Adam Beckman that stood out more. He would have some shifts where he was everywhere on the ice and had the energy of a kid hopped up on mountains of sugar. Every which way you looked, Beckman was getting involved in the play, and especially if it was offensively.

Will there be any holiday rust?

Apparently not. All three zones were treated with respect and while it’s not always comfortable earning a win when you were technically outshot and had slightly less scoring chances at 5-on-5, it is still tidy enough to declare that there was no sign of fatigue or stopping the momentum whatsoever.