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Wild lack the juice to beat playoff-bound Winnipeg

The Wild are running out of battery. And time.

Down to seven regular-season games remaining on Saturday, and without two key forwards and a defenseman, Minnesota didn’t have enough juice to beat playoff-bound Winnipeg. The 4-2 loss left the Wild at the precipice of elimination in the Western Conference wild-card race.

It also left coach John Hynes wanting more from some of his depth players.

“Too many passengers tonight,” he said. “I think when you’re in those roles, when you’re trying to be in the NHL, stay in the NHL, trying to make an impact, there’s got to be more drive to be a complete team — especially when you’re playing a team like Winnipeg that’s deep.”

The Jets got goals from four different players and swept the four-game season series from their Central Division rival to pull within five points of first-place Dallas in the West.

Kirill Kaprizov scored two game-tying goals for Minnesota, but the Wild could never manage a lead.

Now the Wild have six regular-season games remaining, the next five of which will be played on the road starting Sunday in Chicago. Their maximum possible point total is 93. Seventh-place Vegas already has 92, and eighth-place Los Angeles already has 91 pending a late game Sunday against Vancouver.

The Wild have made the playoffs in each of the past three years if you count the 55-game COVID season in 2019-20, and the reality that they’re not going back is undeniable.

“It’s a tough feeling for sure. But at the end of the day, that’s the reality right now,” Zuccarello said.

Kaprizov tied the game 2-2 with a one-timer from the right circle on a power play with 4:18 left in the first period, but the Wild whiffed on the rest of their chances, including a pair of chances for Matt Boldy in front of open nets.

“He was there, it’s a wide-open net, he put himself in the right situations and unfortunately it didn’t go in,” Hynes said. “But me, I don’t have any concern about that.”

It wasn’t his top lines that concerned Hynes. Without veteran forwards Marcus Foligno (surgery) and Ryan Hartman (suspension), and veteran defenseman Zach Bogosian (midsection injury), the Wild needed some depth players to chip in offensively. Of the Wild’s 27 shots on goal, only five came from the third and fourth lines, three by Mason Shaw and two from Jake Lucchini.

“The depth in the lineup wasn’t good enough tonight,” he said.

It’s an ominous message for a handful of players getting rare chances to play big minutes in the NHL, especially in light of the team recalling goaltender Jesper Wallstedt from the American League to start Sunday’s game in Chicago. Hynes said management has discussed bringing more players up from Iowa before the season ends April 18.

“Jesper’s the first guy, obviously, to come in and play,” he said, “and then we’ll go from there.”

Rookies Adam Beckman and Marat Khusnutdinov each finished minus-2 with no shots on goal. So did veteran Freddy Gaudreau, negotiating the worst NHL season of his career. The veteran defense pair of Jon Merrill and Alex Goligoski was on the ice for three goals.

Vladislav Namestikov, Kyle Connor, Brenden Dillion and Morgan Barron scored goals, and Connor Hellebuyck made 23 saves for the Jets. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 21 of 25 shots for the Wild.

“That’s a good hockey club over there,” said Barron, whose deflection of a Dylan Samberg slap shot at 9:46 of the third period all but sealed the Jets’ win. “We held them to very few chances against. I know the first period they had a lot of shot attempts, but as long as we’re limiting those Grade A chances against, we’re doing a good job.”

Hynes pulled Fleury with more than five minutes remaining, but Kaprizov was hit with a holding penalty at 14:56 to kill that plan and put the Wild’s penalty kill back on the ice.

Jets defenseman Dylan DeMelo was penalized for high sticking with 2:46 remaining, giving the Wild a 5-on-4. But the Wild couldn’t find the net, and Fleury was pulled again with 56 seconds left.

Marco Rossi had a strong shot on net from the right circle, but the Wild’s best chance to cut into the league was blocked by Hellebuyck.

“I think there’s a feeling of deflation tonight,” Merrill said. “Obviously, that’s a team we love to beat. and they kind of had our number recently. So, it definitely stings a little bit. But you’ve always got something to play for. We’ll look to tomorrow to rebound and have a strong impact.”

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