Apr 6, 2015 11:04 PM
With 2-0 win by rival Jets, Wild can't clinch
The Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Blake Wheeler and Drew Stafford scored, Ondrej Pavelec made 32 saves and the Winnipeg Jets gave their playoff push a big boost with a 2-0 victory over Minnesota on Monday, preventing the Wild from clinching a wild-card spot.
The Wild stayed stuck on 96 points after their first loss by more than one goal in 34 games since Jan. 19. They must finish the regular season on the road, where they've won 10 straight games to set a franchise record, with visits to Central Division rivals Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis.
The Jets reached 94 points, keeping the pressure on not only the Wild but the Pacific Division teams that haven't secured one of the three playoff berths on the other side of the rugged Western Conference.
With Minnesota and Winnipeg plus Vancouver, Calgary and Los Angeles all scrapping for four available spots, the final five days on the schedule set up to be an intense prelude to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Devan Dubnyk stopped 32 shots for the Wild, whose losing streak stretched to three straight games for the first time since Dubnyk was acquired in the season-saving trade with Arizona on Jan. 14.
Wheeler's power-play shot with just 4:12 elapsed glanced off Marco Scandella's skate and into the corner of the net for the early lead. That prompted the loud contingent of Jets fans from across the border to erupt with approval.
The Wild outshot the Jets 23-18 after the first intermission and had plenty of prime scoring opportunities, including Thomas Vanek's slap shot that pinged off the post in the second period. But Stafford gave the Jets a cushion with his rebound attempt that eluded Dubnyk a few minutes later.
One of several key players who joined the Jets after in-season trades, Stafford has eight goals and 10 assists in 23 games since the big deal with Buffalo.
The Jets have won eight of their last 11 games. Pavelec, who earned his third shutout of the season, has all eight of those victories in 10 starts.
The Jets play at St. Louis on Tuesday and Colorado on Thursday before returning home to wrap up the regular season against Calgary a contest with the potential to become a play-in game.
The Wild are 34-6-4 when scoring first, but in losing these last three their opponent has gotten the first goal each time.
NOTES: Ben Chiarot replaced Toby Enstrom on the blue line for the Jets, who were also missing Dustin Byfuglien to his suspension. Enstrom was out with an upper body injury he suffered in the last game. Chiarot missed the last 17 games with an upper body injury. ... The Wild fell to 26-8-3 since the Dubnyk trade.