ST. PAUL, Minn. -- After three games filled with hard work and little to show for it, the Minnesota Wild were rewarded for their on-ice effort.
Matt Cooke's second-period goal was the difference as the Wild beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Thursday night for Minnesota's first win of the season.
The hard work was most evident in the faceoff circle, where the Wild won 45 of the game's 61 faceoffs, forcing the Jets to play without the puck much of the night.
"It's the little things that add up to make a difference, and that's what we saw tonight," said Wild coach Mike Yeo, who noted that despite the statistical domination the Jets nearly tied the score in the final seconds during a scramble in front of the Wild net. "We don't want to seem to make it easy on ourselves."
Jonas Brodin also scored for the Wild (1-1-2) and Josh Harding had 14 saves in his first start of the season. The Wild had lost their first three games in a shootout, overtime and regulation, respectively.
For Winnipeg, Bryan Little's power play goal was its only offense.
The Jets fell to 2-2-0 despite a notable contingent of their fans filling the enemy arena with chants of "Go Jets Go" at various times throughout the game.
"The game wasn't good from us," said Jets forward Devin Setoguchi, playing his first regular-season game against the Wild since being traded from Minnesota to Winnipeg during the summer. "Give them credit for getting pucks to the net. They didn't turn it over and we did the exact opposite. We turned the puck over, we took lazy penalties. We didn't have a good forecheck or manage pucks, and that's what happens."
Cooke, much maligned by fans because of his suspension-filled past when he signed with the Wild in the offseason, is quickly endearing himself to Minnesotans. He scored by tapping in the rebound of a Torrey Mitchell shot that Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec looked to have smothered under a leg pad.
"By carrying the play for 55 minutes, that doesn't get you a win, so we had to prepare to play for 60 minutes," Cooke said. "I think that was the difference tonight, just being willing, ready and able to go out right from the drop of the puck."
In what is becoming an oft-repeated refrain for the Wild, they dominated long stretches of the first period but emerged without a lead to show for their efforts.
Brodin got Minnesota on the board first with his second goal of the year, deflecting a rebound off the shaft of his stick and past Pavelec. But in the final minute of the period, the Jets knotted the score on a five-on-three power play when Tobias Enstrom's shot from the point was deflected at the top of the crease by Little. Still, repeatedly losing faceoffs took its toll on the Jets.
"It's some of the same stuff we've talked about -- mostly faceoffs," Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said. "We never start with the puck. We chased pretty much the whole night and never created very much through the neutral zone. On the bright side, Pavalec was good. We scored a five-on-three power play goal, which was good. We didn't get one at all last year, so that was good."
Pavelec, who has played every minute in goal for the Jets through four games, had 28 saves.
NOTES: Former Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell, who was named an international consultant by USA Hockey, attended the game in a scouting role. Minnesota LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter, along with Winnipeg D Dustin Byfuglien, D Jacob Trouba and RW Blake Wheeler, are candidates to skate for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics. ... After Minnesota G Niklas Backstrom was injured in the Wild's 3-2 loss in Nashville on Tuesday, the team called up G Darcy Kuemper from their AHL affiliate in Iowa. Kuemper started three regular-season games for the Wild last season and appeared in relief in two playoff games. Backstrom is listed as day to day with a strained knee. ... RW Matt Halischuk made his Jets debut, skating on the team's fourth line. Halischuk spent the previous three seasons with the Predators but was released by Nashville at the end of last season and signed a one-year contract with Winnipeg in July. ... The Jets face Dallas at home on Friday night. One night later, the Wild will play host to the Stars in St. Paul.
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