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This article was published 21/11/2019 (460 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
DALLAS – This time the Winnipeg Jets forced another club to stay in the fight – and the NHL's hottest squad was up for the challenge.
The Jets fell behind Thursday night, stormed back and then finally succumbed after Dallas captain Jamie Benn's brash individual effort with less than five minutes left in the game as the Stars earned a 5-3 victory at American Airlines Arena.
Add Winnipeg to a long list of NHL teams unable to knock off head coach Jim Montgomery's confident group (13-8-2), now 12-1-1 in its last 14 contests. The Stars' last loss in regulation was to the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins on Oct. 26, exactly 11 games ago.
The Jets, meanwhile, failed to pick up two points for the first time on what was a highly successful four-game southern road trip. Despite being outshot twice in Florida and again in Nashville, Winnipeg posted consecutive narrow victories to raise its stock in the competitive Central Division and their record to 13-9-1.
And they nearly escaped Texas with a point or two as well... nearly.
"That’s who they are. We haven’t quit in a game all year. It doesn’t always go the way you want it to go, but I’m really proud of that," said Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice. "I don’t think it was easy for us tonight, in terms of execution. We’ve got a few miles on us but the heart was there."
Looking fatigued at times, they did not go down without demonstrating some incredibly moxie. Down 3-0, they got goals from Kyle Connor in the second period, Patrik Laine midway through the third and the tying marker from a surprise marksman, defenceman Luca Sbisa with just 4:46 left.
But then Benn took it upon himself to settle things just 25 seconds later, stealing the puck and barging in on Connor Hellebuyck before scoring his fifth on a nifty deke. Tyler Seguin added an empty-netter.
"It was a good battle," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. "We don't quit. It was every bit the matchup we expected."
Winnipeg spent the bulk of the first two periods in defensive mode unable to interrupt the quickness and tenacity of the Stars, as Mattias Janmark, Jason Dickinson and Radek Faksa strung together goals in a 5:42 span midway through the second period.
Dickinson scored on a long deflection that sailed behind Hellebuyck. Tied up in front, he was still able to stab at the point shot by Taylor Fedun and alter the direction just 2:06 after Janmark's tally.
The Jets challenged the play, claiming Dickinson's initial zone entry was offside. Replays shown in the rink seemed to show the play was, indeed, off-side, however, the official video review concluded the Dallas skater 'had possession and control of the puck as he entered the attacking zone' prior to his goal.
"They felt it was possession and I just didn’t. There are lots of different ones that we’ve seen. My argument... I think (Dickinson) actually lost the puck and came back and got it. So for me, he’s offside," said Maurice.
Added Sbisa: "It's tough, it comes down to a millimeter pretty much nowadays," he said. "They came up with these rules to make it bulletproof and it's still not bulletproof."
Connor's quick shot eluded goalie Ben Bishop before the middle frame was up and then Laine was credited with an ugly tally at 8:35 of the third when Tucker Poolman's shot hit his chest and bounced in. That set the stage for a wild finish. Sbisa scored his first goal since February 2018, cashing in on a rebound of a Nathan Beaulieu.
"It's nice to score a goal, it's been a little while for myself," Sbisa said. "But at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. All we came here for was the two points. That's one that's going to sting for a while but guys can keep their heads up.
"We didn't give up, we played well to the end and we rallied."
A fast-paced first period produced no scoring stats for the game sheet, although the Central Division rivals each had chances. Dallas owned the puck with down-low pressure midway through the period and used their waiting point men effectively, but Hellebuyck turned aside blasts by defencemen Fedun and Esa Lindell with bodies in front. Late in the period, he flashed his mitt on a hard drive from Corey Perry.
Hellebuyck stopped 31 of 35 shots he faced, while Bishop finished with 23 stops.
Perry had his most productive night in a Stars jersey, assisting on his team's first three goals of the night.
The trip was to be somewhat of a litmus test for the Jets, who were two games above the .500 mark but had just been pounded 4-0 by the division-rival Colorado Avalanche before heading south.
Give them straight A’s for wins over the Panthers, Lightning and Predators and partial marks for the defeat in Dallas.
"It was outstanding," said Maurice, of the road trip. "I liked our heart in (Dallas), probably not the execution so much, but come off a 10-day trip, go home and go back out for a long one again, you want the heart to be there first."
Earlier in the day, Maurice told reporters he recognized in the summer the final two weeks of the November would an onerous block on the schedule.
The Jets return home to play the Columbus Blue Jackets before packing their bags and heading to the Pacific Time Zone for three games next week.
"Heavy teams, on the road, really difficult travel, go to the East Coast, work your way back for one, go to the West Coast, those are all factors in how your team’s playing," Maurice said, after the morning skate.
"We’ve needed to get off to a good start. If you looked at this as a seven-game trip with a one-off in a middle, we’ve needed those three wins (Florida, Tampa Bay and Nashville) because this is gonna be some tough hockey going into the rest of this month."
Defenceman Anthony Bitetto and Carl Dahlstrom along with centre Michael Spacek were healthy scratches for the Jets.
Mark Letestu (virus myocarditis), Mason Appleton (franctured foot bone), Bryan Little (perforated eardrum, vertigo) and Gabriel Bourque (lower body) remain sidelined with with significant injuries.
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).