WINNIPEG - For the third time in four meetings this season, the Dallas Stars found a way to beat the Winnipeg Jets.
After an emotional playoff-spot clinching win on Saturday, the Jets couldn't quite get back to that level on Monday. The Stars, meanwhile, were fighting for their playoff lives and turned a scoreless game into a 3-0 lead in a 4:49 span in the second period.
Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine scored for the Jets in the third, but it wasn't enough, as the Stars left with a 5-2 victory.
"It was five minutes that didn't really go well and we ended up paying for it," said Jets captain Blake Wheeler, who had three shots on goal in 19:31 of ice time.
"If our standard is the Nashville game, we weren't quite there tonight. We'll keep working on it. It's an ongoing thing to continue to get it right every single night. No team is perfect, tonight just wasn't quite up to that level."
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
The Jets had their looks in the game. Mark Scheifele was turned away by Ben Bishop on a first period breakaway, Adam Lowry was denied on a shorthanded breakaway in the second, and Laine rang one off the cross bar just prior to scoring his 30th of the season.
When he did light the lamp seconds later, he became just the fourth player in National Hockey League history to have three seasons with 30 goals before the age of 21.
But after the loss, that didn't mean much to the Finnish sniper.
"It doesn't make me happy right now after that kind of game. Obviously it's a pretty good accomplishment for me. I'm just a guy from Finland that was dreaming about being in the NHL and now I've scored 30 goals three times right away," said Laine. "I have to be proud of myself, but the work is just beginning."
Dallas would open the scoring in the second when Esa Lindell's shot from the left point beat a screened Connor Hellebuyck on the stick side with 9:33 to go in the middle frame.
Just 1:56 later, Bishop caught the Jets on a line change, sending a stretch pass to Mattias Janmark on the left wing. Janmark fed Radek Faksa in the middle of the ice for a breakaway, and he beat Hellebuyck on the glove side.
Before the end of the period, Tyler Seguin snapped home his 30th of the season (the fifth time he's done that in a Stars jersey) during a Dallas 5-on-3 power play to increase the lead to 3-0.
"The 5-on-3 goal is about as perfect of a shot as you can get. I liked our 5-on-4 until we were trying to claw back into the game. I liked our kill until that," said Maurice, who felt his team was a bit "slow" all night.
"We got an awful lot knocked down. We tried to generate a certain way that we couldn't. The puck carrier was standing still so very often which makes it pretty easy not to check him. You just sit above the outs and that's what they did."
Video: POSTGAME | Kyle Connor
That lead would grow to four in the third period. After a Tyler Myers clearing attempt was picked off by Heiskanen, he found Seguin to the right of Hellebuyck. Seguin flipped it into the top corner for his second of the night.
The Jets didn't give in though as they finally broke out just over halfway through the middle frame.
Connor tapped home his 33rd of the season to snap Bishop's shutout bid. He finished off a 2-on-1 with Kevin Hayes with 8:57 left in regulation, giving him six goals in his last five games.
"They're a really good defensive team and offence was tough to come by tonight," said Connor.
"You have to bring it every single night. You can't take nights off or you're going to see results like that. We have to find it in this room to get ourselves ready for that type of hockey."
Then on a power play, Laine blasted home his 30th of the season - the third straight season he's hit that mark - to pull the Jets within two with 4:50 left in the third.
But that's as close as the Jets would get, as Faksa jammed home an empty-net goal with 40 seconds left in regulation to round out the scoring.
At 45-27-4, Winnipeg's lead in the Central Division is now cut to two points. The challenge doesn't get any easier as the home stand continues on Thursday, as the New York Islanders - who have allowed the fewest goals against in the NHL - come to Bell MTS Place.
"We just have to learn from our mistakes," said Laine. "We have a good challenge here on Thursday and we just have to try to bounce back."