ST. PAUL, Minn. – Matt Cooke's goal gave Minnesota the lead in the second period, and Josh Harding made 14 saves for the Wild in a 2-1 victory on Thursday night over the Winnipeg Jets, their newest rival in the recreated Central Division.
Jonas Brodin scored first for the Wild on Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 28 shots. He has played all four games for the Jets and allowed 12 goals.
Bryan Little's goal in the final minute of the first period during a 5-on-3 power play tied the game for the Jets, who were outplayed from start to finish in their first road game of the season. It came against a Wild team edgy for its first victory.
After scoring five goals in each of their first two games, the Jets have only three goals and 32 shots over their last two contests.
Though Chicago is closer to Minnesota by car, Winnipeg is the nearest as-the-crow-flies city to St. Paul. The Manitobans don't miss an opportunity to take advantage of the proximity and root in person for their Jets on the road.
Chants of "Let's go Jets!" were rampant up to and after the opening faceoff, particularly after Little knocked in a rebound of Tobias Enstrom's shot with 42.8 seconds left in the first period.
The Wild were hit with penalties on Brodin (holding) and Kyle Brodziak (hooking) within 4 seconds of each other to set up that Jets goal, but beyond that they put together the kind of complete performance that was missing in their first three games. They lost all three by one goal, two after regulation ended.
Coach Mike Yeo shuffled his lineup, moving Jason Pominville to the second line and Nino Niederreiter to the first line while sending his Cooke-led third line out to start the game. Cooke assisted on Brodin's goal, taking the shot that the second-year defenseman poked in with the shaft of his stick.
Then the 35-year-old left wing swooped in after a shot by Torrey Mitchell to knock a rebound under Pavelec's pad for a 2-1 lead.
Harding replaced Niklas Backstrom 12 minutes into the first period at Nashville on Tuesday night after Backstrom hurt his knee. Backstrom's status is considered day to day, but as he did on short notice in the playoff series last season against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, Harding shined in relief.
Harding, the reigning Masterton Trophy winner after overcoming a multiple sclerosis diagnosis last year, gave up just one goal on 20 shots in 48 minutes against the Predators. He was sharp again against Winnipeg.
This was the first of five meetings between the Jets and Wild this season. They didn't play in 2013 because of the lockout-shortened schedule, and the Jets won both matchups in the 2011-12 season, their first in Canada after moving from Atlanta.
NOTES: Dustin Byfuglien had an assist for the Jets, his fifth of the season. Little has three goals, including one point in each game, and Enstrom has five assists. ... Veteran RW Chris Thorburn (lower body injury) was scratched for the second straight game for the Jets. ... The Wild recalled Darcy Kuemper from Iowa of the AHL before the game to back up Harding. One day earlier, Stephane Veilleux was recalled to play on the fourth line, with Carson McMillan and Jason Zucker going back to the affiliate. ... The Wild have outshot their opponent in every game, including 54-19 in the second period. ... Byfuglien is one of three Minnesotans on the Jets roster, with Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler.