There’s something about Central Division games that brings out the best in the Winnipeg Jets.
After a lacklustre showing in Calgary Monday night, the Jets bounced back with a 6-3 win over the Minnesota Wild Tuesday for their fourth win in their last five outings, improving to 13-3-1 against divisional opponents this season.
In his first game against his former team, Minnesota’s Declan Chisholm took a hooking penalty 7:32 into the game, giving Winnipeg’s suddenly scorching power play its first chance of the night and they took advantage.
After taking a while to get set up, the Jets eventually cycled the puck around the Minnesota zone before Kyle Connor’s slap-pass banked off Gabriel Vilardi’s skate and into the net.
It was Winnipeg’s fifth power play goal in their last eight chances and before the goal could be announced over the PA system, the Jets doubled their lead.
Adam Lowry had the puck behind Minnesota’s net and found Mason Appleton at the faceoff dot. He wired one that found its way past Marc-Andre Fleury to make it 2-0 only 14 seconds after Vilardi’s goal.
The Jets actually trailed 11-8 on the shot clock through 20 minutes, but early in the second they extended their lead where it mattered to 3-0.
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Vilardi carried the puck into the Wild end in transition before sliding the puck to the slot where Connor received the pass. He beat Fleury through a partial screen for his 20th of the season just 1:54 into the second.
It stayed 3-0 for a while before Minnesota cracked the code with 5:50 left in the middle frame. Marco Rossi beat Laurent Brossoit with four seconds left on a Vilardi penalty, which he took after Winnipeg had multiple good chances to make it a 4-0 game.
Rossi nearly made it a one-goal game when he was sprung on a breakaway as the Jets blueliners went off for a change, but Brossoit turned it aside, one of 16 saves he made in the period.
Winnipeg’s power play scored the backbreaker just shy of the midway point of the third period when Vilardi tipped a Josh Morrissey point shot past Fleury for his second of the night, making it 4-1 but the Jets weren’t done there.
Sean Monahan, fresh off scoring a hat trick the previous afternoon, tipped in a point shot just 58 seconds after Vilardi did for his first goal at home as a member of the Jets.
The Wild cut back into the lead with their second power play goal of the night when Kirill Kaprizov scored his 24th of the season with 7:27 left in the third.
Things started to tense up less than two minutes later when Rossi tipped a point shot past Brossoit for his second of the game, making it 5-3 with 5:48 remaining.
The Wild pulled Fleury for an extra attacker with over three minutes left but it didn’t take long for Nino Niederreiter to score into the empty net, restoring Winnipeg’s three-goal lead.
Vilardi and Connor each finished the game with three points while Brossoit turned aside 36 shots for the win.
Winnipeg returns to the ice Friday in Chicago.
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