WINNIPEG - With points in 10 of their last 11 - including a rouge in Saturday's 5-4 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens - the Winnipeg Jets are "finding a way" to make hay right now.
"We've been staying in the battle," defenceman Josh Morrissey said before the team left on a weeklong jaunt through the American southwest. "Sometimes you have those games where you're not feeling your best or the bounces aren't going your way, but you have to find a way to put yourself into overtime or hold off a team in the last few minutes like we have recently."
"Grinding out those points, it matters so much down the line."
Good teams do that.
In previous years after a game like that, we're likely spending our Sunday discussing a 60-minute setback instead.
The Jets were not at their best last night - far from it, in fact - but with enough of their game trending up and their best players being just that, they're earning their spot as one of the top teams in the Central Division right now.
"Your game needs to be at a reasonable level and then you need pieces to get hot. That's your goaltender, your penalty killing, your power play, or you get a real dominant run by one line that allows you to go on some kind of a streak," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "I think our goaltending has been good the whole time, and I think our penalty killing was good early in this, and now the power play over the last few games has heated up. It's been a good balance."
Video: TRAVEL DAY | Josh Morrissey
While the power play was a perfect three-for-three, the PK was not at all sharp on Saturday, allowing three goals including the OT winner when the Jets had multiple chances to clear it.
(The power play is now operating with 22.7 per cent efficiency [7th], while the penalty kill needs work, succeeding only 76.6 per cent of the time for a Bottom 5 league ranking.)
"Obviously when you have a 4-2 lead with 10 minutes left in the third, you want to close that out," Morrissey said. "At the same time, they were a desperate team and were pushing hard and that's going to happen over the course of a season."
BIG D, BIG GAME
On Monday, the Jets and Dallas Stars will renew hostilities following a thrilling home-team victory when these two rivals last met just four days ago in Winnipeg.
This time, the Stars will have home-ice advantage.
"Whether it was this year or the past, the Dallas games have had a little bit of everything. It's a high-end chance game (and) special teams has a big impact with their power play, especially," Maurice said.
"There always seems to be more chances than I think both teams would want, but a lot of that has to do with the skill level. They've got a couple guys on the back end like we do that can change the game. They've got plenty of finishers and speed up front and there's quite a bit of grit in the lineup, so they're pretty exciting games."
The Jets are a perfect 3-0 against their division rivals this year.
Video: TRAVEL DAY | Bryan Little
Connor Hellebuyck made a career-high 45 saves in Saturday's OT defeat, stretching his franchise record for consecutive points earned to start a season with 16.
The 24-year-old now a 7-0-2 record, a 2.24 goals-against average, a .932 save percentage and is the only goaltender in the NHL right now that has made at least nine starts and is undefeated in regulation.
LATE HITS: Adam Lowry (upper body) is "probable" for Monday's game after missing the past nine games. Mathieu Perreault (lower body) is progressing but will not play on the upcoming road trip.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com