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Armia shines, but Jets fall to Stars

Winnipeg fires 30 shots, but Niemi preserves win for Dallas

by Ryan Dittrick @ryandittrick / WinnipegJets.com

DALLAS, Texas - Paul Maurice was right when he said these divisional games had a different feel to them.

We're certainly not in 'must-win' territory just yet, but you could definitely sense the added pressure to perform in this critical October affair.  

The Jets, having lost three of their first five to start the young season, were facing an injury-riddled Stars team in the opening end of a home-and-home series, and were eager to show they would be no easy beat in the stout Central Division this year.

With each of their next three - including two on the road - being played against divisional opponents, it was an opportunity to make a statement, of sorts, and keep pace before embarking on their most difficult stretch of the season.

They did that, but the result didn't fall their way.

The Jets were in control for much of the night, resulting in one of the better performances of the season so far, but on the strength of 28 saves from goaltender Antti Niemi, the Stars prevailed 3-2.

Joel Armia and Mark Scheifele scored for Winnipeg, while Michael Hutchinson made 23 saves.

"I liked the offence tonight more than any other night that we've played," Maurice said. "I liked our 60-minute game. I thought we worked our tails off, I thought we were hard forechecking, hard driving… If we play that way 82 (times a year) we take it all day long."

Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice

With the loss, the Jets fall to 2-4 on the year. They play the Stars again on Thursday back home at MTS Centre.

After withstanding some early pressure, thanks in large part to play of Hutchinson, the Jets fell behind at 14:37 as Brett Ritchie took a pass from Curtis McKenzie on a 2-on-1-turned-breakaway and fired a shot five-hole to put the home team in front.

Stars goalie Antti Niemi kept it that way with eight saves in the opening 20, including a pair on Shawn Matthias, who was one of the most dangerous forwards on either side early on.

Alexander Burmistrov had an eventful period for the Jets, missing a shorthanded breakaway at one end before coming back on the very same power play and preventing a goal by clamping down on the stick of Radek Faksa, who had an open net in tight.

Video: WPG@DAL: Armia capitalizes off of Stars' miscue

The Jets applied great pressure as they looked for the tying goal early in the second period, but a broken stick at the offensive blue line turned the play back at the other way, followed by the tide, in a big way.

A helpless Josh Morrissey did his best to defend the ensuing 2-on-1, but after Hutchinson made the initial stop off John Klingberg, the blueliner tumbled awkwardly on top of him, leaving Patrick Eaves with all 24 square feet of the net to shoot for.

The Jets challenged the play, believing it would be called back for goaltender interference, but the officials thought otherwise.

"That one definitely puzzles me," Hutchinson said. "They push our defenceman right on top of me and it's a bang-bang play. It wasn't like our guy tried to milk it; he was doing what he could to get off. Personally I don't understand why it wasn't goalie interference, but unfortunately we didn't get that call."

Video: POSTGAME | Michael Hutchinson
 
The Jets were all over the Stars in the middle frame and were finally rewarded with just five seconds left. Armia chased down a dump in, hounded the goalie behind the net, stole the puck away and stuffed it home on his backhand for his first of the year.

Armia was one of, if not the best players on the ice. Just moments before the goal, he made a great, one-touch pass to Toby Enstrom to set up a scoring chance, and was credited with three of the Jets' 13 shots on goal in the second period.

That line (Armia, Matthias and Adam Lowry) was in the thick of the action all night, playing the gritty game they can to have success.

"It's simple," Matthias said. "We were winning our foot races; we forechecked hard, we competed. We had a guy in front of the net, we had a guy high and we had a guy forcing the corners. We were relentless on the puck. Army had a heck of a game, and Lows did, too. We put our hard hats on and we went to work. That's the style of game we need to play if we're going to go out there against guys like (Tyler) Seguin, (Jamie) Benn… We've got to take the pretty side of things out of it and play a gritty, hard-working game, and the chances will come."

Video: POSTGAME | Shawn Matthias

The Jets had 27 of the 41 (65.8%) shot attempts in the period. It's a dominant figure, and one worth repeating considering the opponent, the reigning division champs.  

The Stars were pinned in their own end to start the third period, but Tyler Seguin put this one away with a shot from below the right dot, top shelf, at 7:27.

Scheifele scored on the power play with 10 seconds to play to ice a 3-2 final.

LATE HITS: Drew Stafford left the game midway through the first period and did not return with an upper-body injury.

- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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