WINNIPEG — The Minnesota Wild showed coach Dean Evason they were refreshed after the holiday break.
“Almost a perfect game, for coming off a break,” Evason said. “We simplified. We didn’t make anything complicated tonight. So it was not necessarily the game plan, but the execution was fantastic.”
Samuel Walker also scored his first NHL career goal for the Wild, who are 7-1-0 in their past eight games. Sam Steel contributed a pair of assists.
Filip Gustavsson made 31 saves in his 14th game of the season for Minnesota.
Pierre-Luc Dubois scored for the Jets (21-13-1), who began a two-game homestand.
“Losing three in a row is frustrating and tough, but we need to find a way to stop the skid and start compiling points again,” Jets forward Adam Lowry said.
“The race is tight, there is a lot of teams that are within five or six points. Every divisional game is critical.”
The Jets are second in the Central Division with 43 points, one ahead of the Wild.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 24 shots for Winnipeg, which continues to be hit by injuries and is 1-4-0 in its last five games.
Jets coach Rick Bowness wasn’t using injuries as an excuse for his team being off its attention to details.
“It’s a scapegoat. They know what we’re supposed to be doing,” Bowness said.
Minnesota led 2-1 after the first period and 3-1 following the second.
The Wild used an early power play to go up 1-0 with Spurgeon’s low shot getting past Hellebuyck at 5:29.
"I sort of saw two of their forwards got trapped there and we had a five-on-four and (Wild forward Ryan Hartman) made a great play and fortunately it went in,” Spurgeon said of the pass that led to his fourth goal of the season.
They made it 2-0 just 64 seconds later when Kirill Kaprizov left a drop pass for Zuccarello that he fired under Hellebuyck for his 16th goal of the season.
The Jets couldn’t score on a power play that began a minute later, but 10 seconds after it ended Dubois curved around a defender and his shot went off the post and then off Gustavsson for his 16th goal at 10:03.
Minnesota went ahead 3-1 after Zuccarello stepped out of the penalty box. He passed the puck over sprawling Jets defenceman Kyle Capobianco to Gaudreau at the side of the net, who put it into the net at 8:55 of the second period.
Winnipeg outshot the Wild 13-7 in the middle frame, with Gustavsson making some key, late saves to help keep the lead.
The Wild netminder also stopped Mark Scheifele close in midway through the third.
Walker scored into an empty net with 2:05 remaining.
“It’s nice to know that’s our first three-game losing streak of the year,” Jets defenceman Brenden Dillon said. “But every team, the rest of the way, we’re a measuring stick for teams with the way we’ve played these first 35 games.
“We can’t expect to surprise teams anymore. They’re coming here knowing what to expect. Playing their best hockey. We just can’t be surprised at that, especially come next game.”
Winnipeg was 0-for-2 on the power play and Minnesota went 1-for-1.
FILLING IN THE GAPS
The Jets have used 27 skaters this season, which was tied for fifth in the NHL heading into Tuesday’s game.
The latest player to hit the infirmary was rookie forward Cole Perfetti, who suffered an upper-body injury in Winnipeg’s loss to Boston last Thursday.
The Jets’ cobbled-together top line was left-winger Kyle Connor, Dubois and Scheifele playing on the right wing instead of centre.
“Well, they generated. They got the goal,” Bowness said of the top line. “You've got to score more than one goal, clearly.
“Their goalie made some timely saves for them, there's no question about that. I still think we're passing up way too many chances to shoot the puck on the net. It just goes back to our details, a little more urgency, and the fact that we fell behind 2-0, that hurt us.”
Jets: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.
Wild: Host the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2022.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press