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Jets snap skid with win over Wild

The SportsXchange

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Any lingering effects of tryptophan were gone by the time the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets took to the ice at the MTS Centre on Friday.

In the clubs' first games after Christmas, the teams combined for five goals in the first 7:04 of the contest and for seven tallies in the first period overall as the Jets (17-18-5) escaped with a 6-4 victory. In three previous matchups this year, the teams had combined for 10 goals.

Winnipeg right winger Blake Wheeler banged home his second goal of the night and 14th of the season at 10:40 of the third period to lift the Jets to the victory to snap a two-game losing streak. The win was Winnipeg's first win over the Wild (20-15-5) this year. The loss extended Minnesota's losing streak to a season-long four games.

Wild head coach Mike Yeo felt the officials could have stopped the play before Wheeler jammed the winner past goalie Niklas Backstrom.

"I can't tell if it was frozen, but certainly, I felt that vision was lost, or they lost sight of the puck," Yeo said. "But we're not going to make excuses."

The Wild got things started 2:13 in when right winger Jason Pominville surged past Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and fed a wide-open Dany Heatley, a left winger, for his eighth. Jets left winger Evander Kane evened the game with his 11th on a short-handed two-on-one with a feed from right winger Michael Frolik 1:35 later, and center Olli Jokinen gave the Jets a 2-1 lead 2:09 after that with a tap-in tally, his ninth.

"To give up the first goal, giving up early goals can be deflating sometimes, and I thought the best part about it was finding a way to come back," said Jets captain Andrew Ladd, a left winger. "The first goal got us going and we were able to go from there."

The Wild stormed back with two markers in 10 seconds, as Winnipeg defenseman Julian Melchiori's clearing attempt caromed in off the skate of Minnesota right winger Justin Fontaine. Off the ensuing faceoff, left winger Stephane Veilleux rushed in and beat Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec high to his left, spelling the end of Pavelec's night just 7:04 in.

With Al Montoya taking over between the pipes, the Jets tied the game in the first as Wheeler deflected defenseman Jacob Trouba's point shot past for his 13th at 14:50. Exactly three minutes later, Byfuglien recovered his own whiffed shot attempt and directed a close-range shot toward Backstrom that the Wild goalie couldn't squeeze.

In the second, Wild captain Mikko Koivu, a center, completed a quick passing play from center Charlie Coyle and slammed the puck past Montoya 3:40 into the frame to even the score at 4.

After Wheeler's goal made it 5-4, Jets defenseman Tobias Enstrom capped the game with an empty-netter from his own zone with 3.9 seconds remaining. The goal was his fourth of the campaign.

Montoya made 22 saves in relief of Pavelec, who stopped three of six Wild attempts before being pulled. Backstrom, meanwhile, made 32 saves for Minnesota.

Montoya, who improved his record to 6-2-1 this season, said he was ready to go when called upon, but lamented the Jets' slow start defensively.

"If you want to be successful in this league, you can't have a good 55-minute game," he said. "It's got to be 60 minutes from the net on out, and it's about time we do it and put it together there.

"We were trading chances, but that's not something you can do in this league. There are too many guys who are too dangerous."

In the game's early-going, Yeo felt the Wild was hurt by the holiday break, which kept the team from practicing for three days. He wasn't letting his charges off the hook, though.

| "We don't have the luxury of finding reasons for things not being OK," Yeo said, hoping a return home for a game against the New York Islanders on Sunday will help right the ship. Minnesota is 14-3-2 at the Xcel Energy Center this season.

NOTES: The Jets entered the game coming off a feisty matchup with the host Edmonton Oilers on Monday. In the third period, Winnipeg was assessed 70 penalty minutes to set an NHL season high for penalty minutes in a period, edging out the 68 the Philadelphia Flyers were assessed in the third period of a 7-0 loss to Washington on Nov. 1. ... Wild LW Zach Parise (lower body) missed his second consecutive game for Minnesota. ... The game was a standalone home tilt for Winnipeg, which lost both games of a western road swing, 2-1 to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday and 6-2 to the Edmonton Oilers on Monday. The Jets will now head out to Denver to face the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday before returning to host the Buffalo Sabres on New Year's Eve. ... The game wrapped up a four-game road swing for Minnesota, which dropped a 5-2 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 19, a 4-1 contest to the New York Rangers on Sunday and a 4-1 game to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.
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