Visiting Jets have Dallas seeing stars
Winnipeg squad flying high on road trip
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/02/2018 (1920 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
DALLAS — The Winnipeg Jets took their grinding road show to Texas on Saturday night, and like Missouri a day before, they were not going to be denied.
Winnipeg fell behind 1-0 on a goal by Dallas’ Tyler Pitlick 10 seconds into the game, but rallied with five second-period goals en route to a 5-3 triumph over the Stars before a sellout crowd of 18,532 at American Airlines Center.
The win pulled the 37-16-9 Jets into a tie with the idle Nashville Predators atop the NHL’s Central Division. The Preds, who visit Winnipeg on Tuesday night, have two games in hand.
Fourth-place Dallas, meanwhile, dropped to 35-23-4.
Nikolaj Ehlers tied the game 1-1 with the teams playing 4-on-4 just 39 ticks into the second period.
“We played last night, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Ehlers said. “But we bounced back after those 10 seconds, and after that we played the way we should’ve. It was a good first period and after that, it just kept rolling.”
Toby Enstrom put the visitors up 2-1 at 6:32, beating Kari Lehtonen five-hole after a nifty setup by Jack Roslovic, who had juked his way past a Dallas defender at the blue line.
It was the Swede’s first of the season and his first in 87 games — his last goal coming way back on Nov. 3, 2016.
“It was awesome,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “Toby doesn’t care about that kind of stuff, though. When I was in Atlanta, he was an all-star, running-the-first-unit-power-play kind of guy. He’s embraced a different role for the good of the team and helped us out a ton this summer (by waiving his no-move clause for the expansion draft).
“The consummate teammate, so any time a guy has success, you get fired up for him. You probably see the expression on his face — it didn’t matter one way or another. But he was fired up to get one for the boys, so that was fun.”
Mark Scheifele added to the lead 88 seconds later from the slot, pounding Wheeler’s heads-up feed past Lehtonen.
Patrik Laine, who was stymied on a penalty shot earlier in the period, continued Winnipeg’s offensive onslaught four minutes later, starting the breakout in his own end before passing to Ehlers, who returned the puck with the 19-year-old Finn ripping his 30th of the season.
Lehtonen, who surrendered four goals on 21 shots, headed to the bench to be replaced by Ben Bishop. Laine promptly added his 31st and now has 12 goals and 16 points in eight career games against the Stars.
Winnipeg scored five times on nine shots in 20 minutes.
“Most times, Patty doesn’t score you still think he could’ve had three or four against any team,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “Any shot is dangerous that he has. He finds the holes here really well. (He) didn’t miss on the penalty shot by much.”
Tyler Seguin finally ended the bleeding for the Stars, scoring his 31st, with 33 seconds left in the middle period. Alexander Radulov added a goal for the hosts in the final minute, but the game was long over.
“Well, we were in a position to take a big step; we didn’t take it,” Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We could’ve really taken a step today the way we played in the first period. They made us pay for every mistake, and they have skill and speed and it shows itself off the rush. Our scoring chances are mostly off the grind, and they were able to make us pay off the rush. We gave up a breakaway that ended up being a penalty shot, and we ended up giving up two 3-on-2s that ended up in the back of our net.”
Michael Hutchinson made a surprise start in net for the Jets when Maurice opted to give workhorse Connor Hellebuyck the night off. Hellebuyck had made 10 consecutive starts, and Hutchinson performed ably, despite the rust associated with making his first appearance since Jan. 30. He finished with 33 saves.
“We definitely score goals, and that’s one of the luxuries of playing here,” Hutchinson said.
“We allow the goal in the first 10 seconds — you know it’s tough especially in the second game of a back-to-back — it’s just not the start you’re looking for. As a goalie, you know if you can keep them to one goal for the rest of the period and into the second period, there’s a good chance we’re going to score at least one.”
The steady brilliance of veteran blue-liner Dustin Byfuglien was on display again. Maurice called him Winnipeg’s best player, and the evidence was compelling — three assists, a plus-2 rating and a game-high 26:03 of ice time. All the while, Byfuglien was low-risk in the defensive zone with plenty of physical presence.
“What we were good at tonight was we were on pucks, and we knocked a lot of pucks down and countered back quickly,” Maurice said.
“It’s difficult to defend well on change of possession. But the forwards, especially, skated well and knocked a lot of pucks down and created some quick strikes.”
DEADLINE TIME: Will Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff add some veteran help prior to the league’s Monday trade deadline?
The possibilities aren’t keeping Maurice awake at night, even though the Jets were apparently close to acquiring centre Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators.
Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported Friday the Vegas Golden Knights became involved in a three-way trade with the Senators and Pittsburgh, in which Brassard ended up with the defending-champion Penguins. Vegas took on 40 per cent of Brassard’s salary, in part, to block a trade to the Jets, a Western Conference rival.
“I’ve been through this enough to know you can have a plan, and things you want to do — and every team does — and it either happens for you or it doesn’t,” Maurice said.
“It’s not a matter of want. If you want to improve your team — can you get it down with something that makes sense? Kevin’s been working really, really hard at it, as are all the GMs. I don’t spend any time thinking about it. Sometimes of the best trades you ever made, never happen.”
There were suggestions Saturday the Jets were making a play for Montreal centre Tomás Plekanec, who was a healthy scratch for the Habs on Saturday. Could Plekanec centre a line with Laine and Ehlers? Stay tuned.
NOTEWORTHY: The Stars were 0 for 4 on the power play. Winnipeg was 1 for 2… Current Jets player development assistant and former Dallas Star Mike Keane dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff for Veterans Appreciation Night at American Airlines Center… Pitlick’s first-period goal established a Stars franchise record for the fastest goal from the start of a home game. The previous mark was set Oct. 20, 1977 by Roland Eriksson of the Minnesota North Stars.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Updated on Sunday, February 25, 2018 12:42 AM CST: Writethru