Jason Zucker scores late, Wild hold on to beat Jets 6-5

Zucker gives Wild 6-5 win over Jets

WINNIPEG — Jason Zucker was relieved he could salvage a win for his team after a performance he didn’t think was very good.

Zucker scored with 2:10 left in the third period to help the Minnesota Wild hang on for a 6-5 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

His 20th goal of the season came after Erik Haula sent him a backhand pass across the front of the net that he put past Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson.

“That was pretty impressive,” Zucker said of Haula’s feed. “Backhand, no-look through two guys. It was an unbelievable pass.”

That was about the best thing he could say about the game, other than the two points the Wild picked up on the heels of beating the Los Angeles Kings the night before.

Minnesota was ahead 4-1 and 5-2 in the second period and had a 5-3 lead heading into the third period.

Joel Armia and Mark Scheifele then tied it up with goals less than two minutes apart to make it 5-5 at 11:17.

“We had that game and we gave it back to them, let them back into the game too many times,” Zucker said.

“We left (goalie Darcy Kuemper) out to dry too many times. I think we left (Devan Dubnyk) out to dry a couple times and he made a couple saves. That’s not the way we want to play, but we’re happy to come away with two points.”

Haula, Mikael Granlund, Tyler Graovac, Ryan White and Marco Scandella also had goals for the Wild (41-14-6). Granlund, newcomer Martin Hanzal and Chris Stewart each picked up two assists.

Scheifele and Mathieu Perreault each had a goal and pair of assists for Winnipeg (28-30-6).

“Every game matters so much now,” Scheifele said. “To lose it in the last two minutes is tough.”

Rookie Patrik Laine scored his 31st goal of the season and added an assist. Adam Lowry also scored.

Both teams replaced their starting goalies.

Kuemper allowed five goals on 29 shots and was yanked after Scheifele’s 26th goal of the season made it 5-5.

Dubnyk made seven saves in relief, while Hutchinson stopped six of the seven shots he faced.

Kuemper was pulled after Armia’s short-handed goal came off a weird bounce. Kuemper deflected the shot with his stick, but it went off the glass, hit Kuemper in the back and dropped into the net at 9:35.

“I didn’t want to pull him after that fourth goal, but once the fifth goal came he was pretty rattled,” Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I didn’t know if he’d be able to withstand the rest of the game so that’s the reason we pulled him.”

Wild defenceman Ryan Suter left the game late in the first period after Jets blue liner Paul Postma got a five-minute major for boarding the veteran. Boudreau had no update.

Making his seventh straight start, Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck allowed five goals on 21 shots before being replaced by Hutchinson late in the second period.

The Jets had a pair of power-play opportunities late in the third period and also pulled Hutchinson, but they couldn’t capitalize.

Winnipeg was starting a six-game homestand after mounting a five-game point streak (3-0-2) heading into its league-mandated break.

The Jets remain five points out of the second wild card spot in the NHL Western Conference, but have played more games than most of the teams they’re battling.

“Yeah, our season’s on the line,” Perreault said. “We gotta win games.

“We’re five points back and we were able to battle back in this game. It was huge. We got a couple of power plays and weren’t able to score and (then) they score. It was just brutal.”

Winnipeg scored the game’s first goal, but Minnesota responded with three straight markers for a 3-1 lead after the first period.

Notes: Wild forwards Jason Pominville and Zach Parise missed a second game after being quarantined for the mumps… Jets players were being offered booster shots for the mumps after the game. Shots had also been available last October… Minnesota travels to Columbus for a game Thursday. Winnipeg hosts St. Louis on Friday.

Judy Owen, The Canadian Press