WINNIPEG — Dean Evason had a lot on his mind after the Minnesota Wild defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 on Wednesday. Some of it was good, some of it bad.
The Wild coach was thankful for veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s 46-save performance that extended the team’s point streak to 11 games (9-0-2), but he was left wondering about the status of star forward Kirill Kaprizov.
Kaprizov hit the ice after getting tangled up with six-foot-seven Jets defenceman Logan Stanley midway through the third period and left the game.
“I have not been in the room so I don’t know yet,” Evason replied when asked how the team’s leading scorer was doing.
“He was able to skate off, so I guess if there’s a positive that was one of them.”
Fleury has victories in his last four starts, stopping 119 of the 124 shots he’s faced.
“Our goaltender won the hockey game for us,” Evason said.
Marcus Foligno had a goal and assist and Frederick Gaudreau, Ryan Hartman and Mason Shaw, into an empty net, also scored for the Wild (37-21-7). Oskar Sundqvist and Jake Middleton each contributed a pair of assists.
Kaprizov had an assist to give him 74 points in 65 games this season.
Stanley and Nino Niederreiter scored for the Jets (36-26-3), who are 2-7-2 in their last 11 games. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 19 shots.
“Well, (Kaprizov) stopped and I tried to finish my check on him,” Stanley said. “Then I just fell on top of him.”
He added he may have lost his balance a little bit.
“I wasn’t expecting him to go down. It’s just an unfortunate play,” Stanley said.
The victory moves the Wild into a tie with the idle Dallas Stars atop the Central Division with 81 points each, but Dallas has the higher win percentage and a game in hand.
The Jets remain fourth in the division and hold the second Western Conference wild-card spot, three points behind the idle Edmonton Oilers and four points ahead of idle Calgary.
Winnipeg head coach Rick Bowness viewed it as one of his team’s best games of the season, noting the 82 shot attempts, and said Fleury was “outstanding.”
“Some nights you just don’t get any puck luck and right now we’re not getting any luck,” Bowness said. “But I’ll take that effort and the way we played against anybody all year.”
Minnesota was coming off a 1-0 shootout loss Tuesday night at home against the Calgary Flames and it showed early in the game.
The Wild didn’t get their first shot on goal until 8:49 into the opening frame. The Jets had six shots at that point and Fleury made some vintage sprawling, glove-snapping saves.
“I don’t know if it’s vintage groove, but it feels good,” Fleury said. “You take one game at a time, right, one shot at a time and try not to think too far ahead.”
Foligno scored with his team’s third shot of the period, ripping the puck from the high slot over Hellebuyck’s right shoulder at 14:14.
The period ended with the Jets ahead 15-5 on shots on goal.
Four goals were scored in the second period, including three in a span of 86 seconds.
Gaudreau started it off at 7:06 when his 12th goal of the season made it 2-0.
Stanley scored his first goal of the season, and third of his career, 30 seconds later off a rebound. It was the 15th game in the defenceman’s injury-marred season.
Hartman made it 3-1 at 8:31 with a shot that went between Hellebuyck’s pads.
Niederreiter’s 20th goal of the season with 2:45 left in the second marked the 400th point of his NHL career. It also extended his point streak to four games (two goals, two assists).
The Jets were outshooting the Wild 34-16 after two periods.
With Hellebuyck pulled for the extra attacker, a breakdown by the Jets gave Mats Zuccarello the puck and he passed it to Shaw for the empty-net goal with 38 seconds remaining.
The Wild entered the game not allowing a goal for 170 minutes and 57 seconds in regulation and overtime. They had previously been scored on in the first period of a 2-1 victory in Vancouver last Thursday.
When Stanley scored Winnipeg’s goal 7:36 into the second period, it was the first goal Minnesota goalies had allowed in a total of 198:33.
The streak set a Wild franchise record. The previous time span was 184:59 in 2016.
Jets: Begin a three-game road trip Saturday in Florida against the Panthers.
Wild: Play the second of a four-game road trip Saturday in San Jose against the Sharks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2023.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press