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Wild run up the score in blowout win over rival Jets

Kirill Kaprizov finishes with goal and 3 assists in a 7-1 victory at Xcel Energy Center

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Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov (97) celebrates a goal scored by forward Mats Zuccarello in the first period Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, against the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA Today Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

ST. PAUL -- After the Minnesota Wild closed out a lengthy road trip with a shootout win over the New Jersey Devils this week, coach Dean Evason appeared visibly frustrated as he emerged from the locker room. You’d never know the Wild had actually won the game.

“We’ve talked about doing the right things and learning to deal with success,” Evason said on Thanksgiving Eve. “We didn’t deal with it again tonight. Maybe that’s why we don’t want to get up, because we struggle with it.”

That wasn’t a problem on Friday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center as the Wild ran up the score in a 7-1 blowout win over the rival Winnipeg Jets. All the problems that have plagued the Wild this season — from falling behind early in games to letting off the gas when playing with the lead — were nowhere to be found throughout the blowout.

“We were certainly ready to go and we played correctly for the entire game,” Evason said. “We started right and it didn’t get away from us like it has in the past. We were very happy with that.”

Not even a minute into the game, Alex Goligoski scored on a bouncing shot from the point to put the Wild in front 1-0. Mats Zuccarello increased the lead to 2-0 later in the first period with a shot that hit the crossbar, then bounced off of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck’s back before trickling past the goal line.

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That was the start of a long afternoon for Hellebuyck. Actually, it was a pretty short afternoon for him, all things considered. That’s because the Wild put the game away early in the second period with a 45-second flurry. It started with Ryan Hartman casually lifting a backhander past Hellebuyck to make it 3-0 and continued with Zuccarello unleashing a slap shot to stretch the lead to 4-0. Kirill Kaprizov assisted on both goals to continue his recent hot streak.

“We were able to extend it and keep that momentum going, not give them anything, not let the back in the game whatsoever,” Hartman said. “It was great to see.”

That offensive outburst was enough to chase Hellebuyck from the crease in favor of backup goaltender Eric Comrie. The onslaught continued midway through the second period as Jon Merrill got in on the action to make it 5-0.

With the Wild dominating in every facet of the game, the Jets started to take some cheap shots out of frustration, namely defenseman Nathan Beaulieu elbowing Goligoski in the head during a race for the puck, then slashing Zuccarello in the left hand late in the frame.

That forced Zuccarello to leave the game and he didn’t return.. Fortunately for the Wild, it sounds as if Zuccarello avoided serious injury.

“He could have came back and played in this game,” Evason said. “It’s just precautionary.”

Though the game was pretty much over at that point, Matt Dumba hammered home a one-timer midway through the third period to make it 6-0. Cam Talbot’s shutout bid ended a few minutes later as center Pierre-Luc Dubois scored for the Jets to make it 6-1. On the ensuing shift, Kaprizov put an exclamation point on the win with a goal to finalize the score at 7-1.

“We played a heck of a team game,” Talbot said. “We had a lot of jump from the get-go. We knew that this is a big game, not only the first game back home after Thanksgiving (but with) where these guys are in the standings. They are right behind us, and this was a chance for a little separation.”

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The Minnesota Wild celebrate a goal by defenseman Alex Goligoski in the first period Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, against the Winnipeg Jets at Xcel Energy Center Brace Hemmelgarn / USA Today Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

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