WINNIPEG – It’s hard to hold a lead longer than the Winnipeg Jets did Thursday night.
Tyler Myers broke open the scoring just 15 seconds in and the Jets never looked back, holding on for a 4-1 win over the injury-ravaged Dallas Stars at MTS Centre.
For the Jets it was by far their strongest game of the young season, a night in which they bucked nearly all the trends that had hampered them through six games.
Avoid digging a huge hole? Check: The Jets led for 59:45, far more than the 17:02 they had spent in front in their first six games combined.
Generate chances on the power play? Check: two power play goals from Patrik Laine on a night where the PP looked better than it had in any other game this season.
Holding their opponent to under three goals? Finally: Connor Hellebuyck was outstanding in net, stopping 38 of 39 shots sent his way.
The Jets set the tone with a very strong first period: Myers made those late to their seats regret their tardiness, and then halfway through the frame Winnipeg generated eight shots on arguably their best power play of the year.
While they didn’t score there, the Jets fed off the energy and that led to Kyle Connor’s first career NHL goal off a slick pass from Nikolaj Ehlers on a 2-on-1 late in the first.
The Jets cashed in on the power play 4:30 into the second, with Patrik Laine’s wrister from the point getting by a screened Antti Niemi to make it 3-0.
And the young Finn wasn’t done there: after Tyler Seguin scored to make it 3-1 early in the third, Laine snapped another wrister past Niemi on a 5-on-3 to restore the three-goal lead, which the Jets would not relinquish.
“Had a couple good chances to shoot, I just tried to get it to the night and they went in, so I’m happy about that,” Laine, who has four of the Jets’ five power play goals, explained after the game. “When I came here, they had the worst power play so I thought that I could bring something to the power play. Just trying to help my team to win.”
Head coach Paul Maurice continues to be blown away by Laine’s shooting ability.
“He’s just used to scoring goals. The first shot, we had a real good angle on it, that one he knew where it was going, for sure. The second one, there’s not a lot of room there. But he does it so often you know that’s where he was putting it. He’s a spectacular shooter, for sure.”
It was also quite the bounce-back night for Kyle Connor, who went from healthy scratch to first-time goal scorer.
“It’s exciting. It’s what you work for, to make it to this league. That first one is obviously a special feeling,” Connor explained, and was then asked where the special puck would be going. “Probably back home to my parents. They’ve helped me so much to get to this point. I owe a lot to them.”
This game was easily the best game the team has played defensively. It also helps to have a big early lead, as Connor Hellebuyck’s explains.
“It always helps. We’ve been starting off great but just haven’t had the goals to show for it. We were in those other games, too, but tonight we got it. Our d-zone, we really shut things down and kept it to the outside. It made my life easy.”
The Jets now have to hop on a plane to Denver for a Friday night matchup with Colorado. Puck drop is 8 p.m.