DALLAS — Credit the Winnipeg Jets for exhibiting some hefty push-back Thursday night, a trait that has served them well for much of the 2019-20 NHL season.
The Jets were down and out midway through the second period, trailing by a pair of goals, but then sprung to life to earn a point in a 3-2 overtime defeat to the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
Stars centre Joe Pavelski fired a rebound past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck with 2:58 left in the extra session, with Jets blue-liner Josh Morrissey serving a minor penalty for holdingPavelski’s stick.
It was a call neither Morrissey nor Jets head coach Paul Maurice felt should have been made during the frenetic pace of three-on-three OT.
"You’re going to get calls you like and you don’t. For me, if you’re going to have rabbit ears out on (Mark Scheifele) and you’re going to make that call on (Morrissey), then you can’t have missed that call on Kyle Connor," said Maurice, in a post-game chat with reporters. "That doesn’t do me any good but that’s how I feel.
"It’s a tough, fast game to get it right every night. But if you’re gonna miss that one, you gotta let that one in overtime go."
Connor was slowed up en route to the net in the third period by an apparent hook. Earlier, Scheifele took a hooking penalty with the Jets down 2-0 in the second frame and was slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for comments made to an official.
Scheifele, who netted the tying goal with 44.6 seconds left in the third period, maintains it was an overreaction by one of the men in stripes.
"I don’t even swear. I said, ‘You suck.’ I don’t think my mom even punished my sister for telling me I suck when I was 10 years old. But that’s a song for another day," said Scheifele, who was left alone in the slot to score his 11th goal of the season.
Added Maurice: "The man hasn’t sworn his entire life. And he wouldn’t. He doesn’t swear. And I’ve tried to make him. But he won’t."
Patrik Laine was once again the set-up man. Positioned near the faceoff dot, he snapped a perfect pass to Scheifele for his team-leading 20th assist (tying his total number of helpers last season).
Hellebuyck made a stunning glove save on Tyler Seguin on the delayed penalty to Morrissey, but the hosts had an offensive-zone faceoff and produced their first victory in five games. Winnipeg is now 17-10-2 and remains in third place in the NHL’s Central Division, while the Stars are one point behind at 16-11-3.
"More of the same, we just stayed with it," said captain Blake Wheeler, who finally got the Jets on the board early in the final frame, slicing the Stars’ 2-0 lead in half.
"We had some looks before that, that we didn’t capitalize on. Just stay in the fight and a great battle."
The Jets, who’ve enjoyed just two home games compared to eight away since Nov. 12, appeared sluggish for about the first 30 minutes of the game and fell behind 2-0, but finished the middle period with a flurry.
Jump-starting the visitors was the successful kill of Scheifele’s double-minor at 13:57.
Wheeler scored at 1:38 with a wrist shot from a bad angle that bounced up and over goalie Ben Bishop.
"Two pretty evenly matched teams. They do a good job, they play a tough game, especially in this building. We knew there was going to be a response, obviously (the Stars had) a tough one in our building the other night. It was a great hockey game," said Wheeler.
"The last couple of years, whenever we’ve played these guys, it’s been a real battle. Those are fun games to get up for. For early December, that was a good hockey game."
Maybe it was the dressing down by their head coach, Jim Montgomery, two nights before. Perhaps, it was the radical move by said bench boss to scratch top-six forward Alexander Radulov. Or, it might have been retribution, pure and simply.
Radulov has eight goals and 15 points in 29 games, but has managed just two goals and two assists in his last eight.
Most likely, the talented Stars sought to halt the losing before it became a habit — again.
Forty-eight hours after a suffering a 5-1 smackdown in Winnipeg, the Stars showed speed, skill and just the right amount of aggression in the early going.
They could have and should have been ahead by more through two periods, had some golden opportunities not been snuffed out by Hellebuyck.
But the Jets netminder couldn’t handle lasers from Jamie Benn late in the first period and Denis Gurianov midway through the second. Hellebuyck and Bishop each finished with 36 saves.
Nikolaj Ehlers, the Jets’ leading goal scorer with 13, had the best opprtunity in the opening 20 minutes, pulling a crafty toe drag on defenceman Esa Lindell before firing a shot into the chest of Bishop.
Defenceman Nathan Beaulieu returned to the Jets lineup after missing four games with a hand injury.
The Jets winged home immediately after the game and will play their next two at home. The Anaheim Ducks visit Bell MTS Place on Sunday afternoon and the Detroit Red Wings drop in Tuesday night.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
Updated on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at 10:37 PM CST: Adds photos
12:08 AM: Full write through, final version.