WINNIPEG – If only the Winnipeg Jets could play Dallas every night.
The Jets snapped their four-game losing streak with a much-needed 5-2 win over the Stars, the last team they beat before that slide began.
Patrik Laine snapped a five-game goalless draught with his third career hat-trick, and second of the season against Dallas.
The Jets improve to 4-1 against Dallas this season, outscoring their opponent 23-11. It also marked the first time since January 9 that Winnipeg allowed fewer than three goals in a game. Connor Hellebuyck made 34 saves in the win.
The game got off to a slow start in a building that needed a serious jolt after witnessing some lacklustre efforts in recent days. They got one late in the period, when Andrew Copp set up Laine on an odd-man rush to open the scoring.
The second was much more eventful, starting with Joel Armia scoring his fifth of the season from the slot. Less than a minute later, a fight. Then 15 seconds later, the Stars got within one thanks to Jamie Benn’s 19th.
Only five minutes later, the Stars tied it thanks to Tyler Seguin’s power play goal. A feeling of deja vu began setting in, fans thinking, ‘Here we go again.’
But the Jets weathered the storm in the third as Dallas hit the post three times and Hellebuyck allowed nothing else past him. Then, the goal everyone would be talking about afterwards.
Mark Scheifele wins the faceoff, Laine lifts the defender’s stick and whips it on net in a way few can. It seems effortless, yet it’s blur of a rocket over the shoulder of Antti Niemi.
“That second goal, in that moment, when we needed it the most, that’s pretty special,” explained Blake Wheeler. We need a guy like that to step up. That’s something we’ve missed here in the past. Without a guy like that in our room, that’s typically a 2-2 game going into overtime.”
Wheeler scored into an empty net as did Laine, and the hats poured down. After the game, he was his typical nonchalant self, showing what seems like the same enthusiasm towards a hat trick as one would shopping for groceries on a Sunday.
“It’s always nice to score. Huge game for me and my linemates and the team. These last four games haven’t been that good. It was nice to get a game like this. I just wanted to play more simple, put pucks at the net and hope for the best. Maybe some of the games I wasn’t ready, like Tampa, but I felt like I was ready, right away that I was on my game.”
Even beyond the impact in the standings, the way the team played is closer to where it needs to be every night to succeed in the NHL. Dallas is by no means the cream of the crop in the Western Conference this year, but to their credit the Jets were resilient and pulled out a big win at the end of what had been a dreadful homestand. Looking at team development, rather than the standings, may be the way to go for the next month and a half as a playoff run looks increasingly unlikely.
But their reward is now a tricky four-game Eastern Conference road swing, starting in Pittsburgh Thursday night before heading north of the border with stops in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.