WINNIPEG - Talk about a five-star performance.
The Winnipeg Jets put up five goals on one of the stingiest defensive teams in the National Hockey League on Tuesday night, earning a 5-1 victory over the Dallas Stars to open a home-and-home set between the two clubs.
Kyle Connor had a goal and three points, including the eventual game-winner, while Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Josh Morrissey added singles.
"We were quick on pucks," said Blake Wheeler, who finished with an assist of his own giving him seven points in his last five games. "The D did a really good job getting back. Our second man quick in the D-zone allowed us to break a lot of pucks out, and a lot of really good sticks in the D-zone so they didn't have whole lot of established O-zone time. Working from our defensive zone out, we were really solid and gave ourself a chance to create offensively."
Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice
The seven combined points accumulated by the forward line of Connor, Scheifele, and Laine helped pave the way to victory, which improved the Jets record to 17-10-1.
The offence was nice, but for head coach Paul Maurice, it was the way the Jets played defensively that stood out.
"If there was a breakdown, there was somebody three or four feet away that was wired into stopping our problem. Our gap was good and there wasn't a lot of easy ice for the other team," said Maurice.
"I liked a lot of that. We left a lot of offence on the table there. We haven't had a big game where we've had a lot of chances. If you don't score, it's slightly frustrating, but you're still a lot happier if you think you can… I liked it."
The Jets honoured the 2019 Grey Cup Champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers before puck drop and the energy from the crowd seemed to get soaked up by the home squad.
Video: POSTGAME | Patrik Laine
Just 13 seconds in, Laine fired home a wrist shot from the slot. Unfortunately for Laine and the fans inside Bell MTS Place, it was taken back after an offside challenge.
"I knew it right away. When I came to the bench the guys were looking at me. I was like 'yeah that's offside,'" Laine said, before adding sarcastically. "Probably not going to be able to sleep tonight. I'll try to get some rest on the plane tomorrow."
Undeterred, the Jets stayed after it, and were rewarded shortly after.
Ehlers took a Neal Pionk wrist shot in the skates after trying to tip it, but spun around and sent his 13th of the season past Anton Khudobin 7:45 into the opening period.
"For us, we want to come out and have good starts every single game. But all teams want to do that," said Ehlers. "We get ourselves ready for every single game. We know what we need to do out there every single game. It doesn't change. It's just a matter of doing it and we're doing it right now."
Video: POSTGAME | Nikolaj Ehlers
The sustained offensive zone pressure kept up for the Jets in the second, leading to Connor redirecting his 11th of the season through Khudobin's legs.
Morrissey picked up an assist on the goal, then scored one of his own 3:16 later. His wrist shot from the right side banked off Khudobin, then Mattias Janmark and over the line.
Laine's fellow Finn Miro Heiskanen would put the Stars (15-11-3) on the board with 2:01 left in the second during four-on-four play. But Laine restored the three-goal Jets lead, finishing off a pretty three-way passing play for his eighth of the campaign.
"That was the least I could do after the dumb penalty I took on the power play. That was a make-up goal," Laine said. "That was something I needed to do. KC and Scheif made a great play."
In the third, Scheifele rounded out the scoring with a wraparound, giving him 10 goals on the season. It also put a nice finish on a night that saw the Jets centre win 67 per cent of his face-offs and tie for the team lead in shots on goal with four.
The Jets now have their sights set on the back half of the home-and-home, which goes in Dallas on Thursday night.
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
One thing is for sure, the way the Jets play won't change that night.
"I don't think they've ever been looking to sacrifice their defence to score goals," said Maurice.
"We're a better defensive team than we are an offensive team. The numbers say that over the course of this year. We thought, and still feel, there's quite a bit more offence for this group. Some chemistry is starting to come into the lines a little bit.
"It's not always easy, but they go after it pretty good."