WINNIPEG – Now that’s how you kick off a home stand.
The Winnipeg Jets did what they needed to do Tuesday night. Timely scoring and an exceptional goaltending performance propelled the hometown team to a colossal 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars.
Bryan Little, Adam Lowry, Dustin Byfuglien and Michael Frolik (EN) had the goals for the Jets, while Michael Hutchinson made 26 saves in the win. Hutchinson, who has now started four of the past five games for the blue and white, has earned 10 of a possible 12 points in his last six overall (4-0-2).
With the win, the Jets improve to 31-20-11 and with 73 points on the year – four up on the Minnesota Wild and five on the Calgary Flames – continue to hold the top spot in the Western Conference Wild Card.
“We knew Dallas has some offensive skill and that they were going to have a push at some point,” Hutchinson said. “They were good in that second period (outshooting the Jets 10-4), but we were fortunate that we didn’t get running around too much. We blocked some key shots whenever they did get chances, I was fortunate to be there to make the save.”
The Jets took a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 5:05.
With Stars forward Jason Spezza off serving a penalty for cross-checking, Little was credited with his team-leading 24th of the year. Letting one fly from the top of the circle, his one-time offering banked off the knee of a defender in front, giving the Jets an early advantage while leading 5-0 in shots.
Mark Scheifele and Andrew Ladd recorded the assists.
The Stars battled back, tilting the ice and firing 10 shots in the final 15 minutes of the first, but after one period of play, the Jets – leading 1-0 – had 14.
On a 9-0 run in shots to begin the period, the Stars brought the game back on even terms at the 12-minute mark. Uncontested at the foot of the circle, Erik Cole picked the corner on a sprawling Hutchinson, scoring his 18th of the year and third in four games.
Moments later, the Stars nearly went out in front, but Shawn Horcoff’s 45-foot knuckler pulverized the base of the goalpost.
“Good first, good third. Didn’t like the second,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “They’re good at some things out there; chaos and speed. They were full on good in that second period and we did some things to make it worse. When they get rolling around the outside, their back end activates. … Then we tried to do everything standing still and that’s how the tying goal went in. We identified (the mistakes) and made them better.
“Once we started skating again, we were in good shape.”
The Jets were held without a shot for the first 14:34 of the period, but on the strength of No. 17's net drive, it was worth the wait. Showing some soft hands in tight, Lowry deposited his own rebound, sliding a shot past Jhonas Enroth to put the Jets back in the lead just two-and-a-half minutes after the equalizer.
“The puck bounced around a bit and I think they thought it was going to go in a different direction. I was fortunate to get that bounce and that it ended up on my stick,” Lowry said, describing his goal.
“It felt good.”
In spite of a strong push by the Stars, Byfuglien put this one away with a beautiful goal at 5:10 of the third. On a breakaway after receiving a magnificent feed from Jacob Trouba, Byfuglien diverted to his backhand, flipping a shot past Enroth to put Jets up 3-1.
“He’s a good player. He’ll find the holes and he was definitely screaming for it,” Trouba laughed.
“They’re a good team, they’ve got a lot of offensive skill and they’ll make you hurt if you get away from your game. I thought we stayed on course and when we got our chances, we buried them.”
Frolik added an empty-netter at 16:53, before Jason Demers tallied one in garbage time. Frolik finished the night with the goal and five shots on net in over 21 minutes of ice time alongside Little and Ladd on the top line.
“It’d been a while since I last played with them. It was a little bit new, but I know them well enough,” Frolik said. “We had a couple good offensive shifts, but you can always be better.
"We were pretty good in the third, so hopefully we can carry it on to the next game.”
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com