Jets 4, Wild 3, SO

The Winnipeg Jets tried to make themselves as comfortable as

they could for their only appearance in Minnesota this season.

Their thousands of enthusiastic fans who made the trip, too,

made it sound a little bit like a home game.

Evander Kane had two goals in regulation and the winner in the

fourth round of a shootout, giving the Jets to a 4-3 victory over

the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.

”I thought it was a really good test of character for us,”

Jets coach Claude Noel said, adding: ”I thought the guys were in

it to win it.”

The Jets were outshot 14-6 in the third period by a sputtering

Wild team frantic for a win, but goalie Chris Mason was steady and

stopped three of four tries in the shootout.

”I thought he was really good when he had to be,” Noel said.

”He’s a veteran guy. He’s got great focus.”

This was a key victory for the Jets and their outside chance at

the playoffs. In 10th place in the Eastern Conference, Winnipeg

will play its next eight games at home.

Kane has four goals in five games for the Jets since returning

from injury and 21 for the season. He upstaged Devin Setoguchi, who

had his first two-goal game for the Wild, who scored on their first

shot of each period.

Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom stopped two of the first three

shots he saw in the shootout, but he fell to 3-5 this season and

15-29 in his career in those situations. The Wild ended their

streak of four regulation losses in a row, but they fell to 5-16-6

in their last 27 games.

Mikko Koivu gave the Wild the lead early in the third period,

but Alexander Burmistrov scored on a rebound off an end-board

ricochet for the Jets exactly 2 minutes later. The Wild fell to

13-10-4 at home, the third-worst record in the NHL.

”If you don’t win the game it’s really not satisfying,” said

Setoguchi, who has four goals in four games since Koivu returned

from a shoulder injury. ”But it’s nice that our line was able to

put some in. Just missed opportunities again made us come up a

little short.”

The Wild have only nine goals in their last six games, going

0-4-2, and Koivu, Setoguchi and Dany Heatley has seven of those

scores. Second line center Matt Cullen has no goals in his last 14

games.

”It sits on all of us,” said defenseman Nick Schultz, who came

the closest to scoring in overtime with a wrist shot that went just

wide left.

Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien played a game-high 27 minutes

and had two assists, giving him six points in his last four

games.

”That extra point was huge,” Kane said, adding: ”This gives

us a lot of energy moving forward.”

St. Paul is the closest NHL city to Winnipeg, and this revived

regional rivalry is on track to become a meaningful one now that

Manitoba has a team again. The Jets won a physical, tight game 2-1

north of the border Dec. 13, a game that coincidentally sent the

Wild into this downward spiral they’ve yet to escape. They had the

best record in the NHL when they took the ice in Winnipeg that

night.

The ”Go, Jets, go!” yell rang out before the faceoff from the

thousands of Winnipeg fans in attendance. Wearing their red, white

and blue garb – featuring logos of both the old team and the new

one – they sang along with ”O Canada” and cheered each Jets goal

almost as loudly as the Wild fans applauded the home team.

”We’ve had unbelievable support all year, and we appreciate

it,” Mason said.

The wide-open action on the ice down the stretch matched the

intensity in the seats, too, particularly after Burmistrov tied it.

Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck tried to fight Winnipeg’s Jim Slater at

one point, but they were separated by the officials. So Darroll

Powe of the Wild and Tanner Glass of the Jets dropped the gloves

instead.

Earlier, the Wild’s Warren Peters tried to elbow the burly

Byfuglien, who delivered a forearm shiver and knocked him back on

the ice. Byfuglien, who has a 70-pound edge on Peters, was called

for roughing. Peters got an unsportsmanlike conduct call.

Whenever the NHL Players Association signs off on the plan,

realignment will move Winnipeg and Minnesota into the same

grouping, increasing their annual matchups.

”I think it’s going to heat up. There’s no question about that.

It’s not going to go any less emotional than it already is,” Noel

said.

NOTES: Byfuglien (Roseau), Blake Wheeler (Plymouth) and Brad

Stuart (Rochester) are the three Minnesotans on the Jets’ roster.

… Koivu scored his first goal since Dec. 29. He missed eight

games and played in nine without scoring since then. … The Wild

fell to 10-9-5 when scoring first, the worst such record in the

NHL. … When Kane scored his second goal, the scrolling

advertisement on the digital ribbon board around the arena was

showing a plug for TravelManitoba.com at the moment. … Said Yeo:

”I know we didn’t win tonight, but there are a lot of guys that

played like winners.”

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