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This article was published 3/12/2019 (251 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Maybe it was the Grey Cup at centre ice — in the city at long last — with 15,000 fans standing and cheering as hometown heroes Andrew Harris and Nic Demski, along with the incomparable Chris Streveler (sans fur coat and stogie), soaked it all in and dropped the ceremonial puck.
Perhaps it was the fact the current version of the Winnipeg Jets seemingly went back in time to that magical 2017-18 season when winning looked so easy on so many nights, as they thoroughly dismantled a talented Dallas Stars team 5-1.
Whatever the case, you couldn't help but come away from Bell MTS Place on Tuesday night wondering if winning just might be contagious around these parts. And whether this hockey club, warts and all, might be a championship contender after all.
"Stanley is next," I heard a fan shout from the upper-deck. It's a notion that doesn't seem quite as silly these days, not after a 6-7-0 start to the season has turned into a 17-10-1 record.
Who would have predicted that?
With their latest impressive victory, the 11th in the past 15 games, the Jets have jumped into second place in the Central Division and show no signs of slowing down. Dallas falls to 15-11-3 and holds the first wild-card playoff spot in the NHL's Western Conference.
This might have been Winnipeg's most complete 60-minute effort of the season, made all the more impressive by the fact they were making a brief pit stop at home after spending much of November on the road.
You know the old adage that the first game back is usually the hardest? These Jets apparently missed the memo. And there's no question having the big, shiny trophy in the building factored in.
"The crowd in this building is a huge advantage to us and they were wired, and rightfully so and appreciative of it. I do think it mattered. It brought out a different energy to the start of the game, a certain kind of excitement," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said when I asked him to describe the feeling on the bench during the pre-game celebration honouring the CFL champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
"Titletown, Canada. It was cool," added captain Blake Wheeler. "Those guys went on a heck of a run. We were all pulling for them at the end. Obviously the city was, too. Great job by those guys to end a long drought. It's always nice to be able to celebrate with the other teams in your city and congratulate teams. Hopefully they can reciprocate here sometime soon."
Dare to dream, Winnipeg.
With the crowd still buzzing, Patrik Laine nearly brought the house down when he ripped a shot past Anton Khudobin just 13 seconds into the game. There was just one problem — Mark Scheifele was offside on the play. Dallas successfully challenged, and the goal was wiped off the board.
No matter for Winnipeg, which took the temporary setback in stride. Nikolaj Ehlers scored his team-leading 13th of the year at 7:45 of the opening period, spinning and shooting from the slot.
The Jets kept coming in waves, with shot attempts a whopping 18-7 for the home side through the opening 20 minutes. They were only getting warmed up.
Mark Scheifele and Ehlers both had breakaways in the first few minutes of the middle frame, but neither could beat Khudobin. But the Dallas goalie couldn't stop a Kyle Connor deflection off a Josh Morrissey point shot a few minutes later. Connor's 11th of the year, at 7:56, made it 2-0.
Morrissey gave the Jets a 3-0 lead at 11:12, as his shot bounced off Khudobin, off Dallas forward Mattias Janmark and into the back of the net for his third of the season. As the saying goes, you have to be good to be lucky.
Miro Heiskanen cut the deficit to 3-1 at 17:59, streaking past defenceman Neal Pionk during four-on-four action. But Laine — who had negated a Jets power play with a careless cross-checking penalty — quickly made amends as he scored on a three-on-one rush at 19:29.
"I think that was the least I could do after the dumb penalty I took on the power play. So that was kind of a make-up goal," said Laine.
His eighth of the season is his third against Dallas in as many games this season, and his 18th career goal in 16 games against the Texas rivals.
"I wish we played 82 against those guys because I’d have a lot of goals. It just seems like it goes in. Don’t have any explanation. Thank God they’re in our division. I’m laughing," said Laine.
The game took a bit of a nasty turn in the third, with Jets centre Adam Lowry trading punches with stars pest Corey Perry after a post-whistle skirmish. Like everything on this night, the Jets won that battle, too.
Scheifele finished off the scoring later in the period, taking a feed from Laine and beating Khudobin on a wraparound for his 10th of the season. Connor finished with three points, while Scheifele, Laine, Ehlers and Morrissey each had a goal and an assist. Those five players, all first-round draft picks of the Jets, combined for 11 points.
Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck wasn't busy but was sharp when called upon, making 27 saves.
It definitely was a November to remember. And now a new month is off to a strong start, one that will see the Jets play eight of 13 games on home ice. Next up is a rematch with the Stars on Thursday night in Texas.
"I think everybody keeps everybody accountable in this room. Everybody in this locker room has been losing at some point in their career. It’s not fun. So winning is way more fun than losing. That’s kind of our mindset in this room," said Laine.
"Everybody works as hard as they can on the ice. Sometimes we lose. That’s just the way it is. You can’t win all 82. But that’s the way we can bounce back after a loss, like we did. That’s the way we need to play. Hopefully we get on a hot streak again."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 at 10:00 PM CST: Adds photos
10:59 PM: Full write through adds quotes.
11:45 PM: Final version with quotes.
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