DALLAS, TX - And so, the subject can finally be laid to rest.
After failing to produce a third consecutive win on their previous nine tries this season, the Winnipeg Jets have done that now, and are officially on a roll.
Mark Scheifele scored twice, while Ondrej Pavelec - who was absolutely sensational - made 39 saves in a 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars Thursday, and are back to within a point of a wild-card playoff spot.
Bryan Little and Nikolaj Ehlers had the other goals, and Patrik Laine had two assists.
It was a hair-raising final few minutes as Dallas littered the blue paint as part of a 14-shot third, but Pavelec held the fort.
"A lot (of saves). Some high-end ones, too, off some really high-end shooters, and some he didn't see until late," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "Over 82 games, to get on any kind of roll, the goaltender has to grab one for you.
"Best player on the ice."
It was a 2-2 game with the shots favouring the Stars 15-14 after one, but the Jets took over for a good chunk of the second, scoring twice to go up by two.
Video: POSTGAME | Mark Scheifele
Scheifele appeared to put the Jets up 3-2 on a power play early in the second, but a challenge initiated by the Stars coaching staff revealed the play was offside.
Scheifele got his team-leading 25th, anyway, on the very same power play, helped by an Antoine Roussel penalty that extended the advantage to a 1:21-long 5-on-3. For the second time in the game, the goal came only moments after Pavelec came up with a gargantuan save, stopping Benn on a shorthanded breakaway with his right pad flat on the ice.
Video: WPG@DAL: Pavelec sprawls to stone Benn in the 2nd
That just might have been the turning point.
"It happened so quick. That was probably the first breakaway in my career on a 5-on-3, so I didn't expect that, but I was just waiting for his move," Pavelec said. "It's a great, great win for us. It's a huge road trip for us and we want to keep going, keep pushing. Now we go to Colorado and we want the two points."
On the goal, Maurice couldn't help but laud the skill and poise of his leading point-getter.
"When (Scheifele) plays with Blake he plays more of a straight-line game," he said, adding that Scheifele could have easily had four or five goals on this night. "It's more of a speed game, and maybe he doesn't have to necessarily slow down as much to read what's going to happen with the puck. When it comes out from low in our end of the ice, he comes out with speed because he knows Blake is going to play it, control it and make a real, smart play with the puck."
The Jets took their first two-goal lead of the night at 12:51. Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen gave the puck away to Laine behind his own net, and was unable to scramble back in time, as the rookie found Ehlers in front for the tap-in.
Video: WPG@DAL: Laine steals puck and sets up Ehlers
The home side chiselled away at the deficit with a key goal late in the period, as Patrick Eaves put home a loose puck in the blue paint to make it a one-goal game once again, but Pavelec kept them from getting any closer down the stretch.
"It wasn't exactly the prettiest in all facets of the game, but when things went bad, (Pavelec) was there for us," Wheeler said. "We've got to put some wins together here. Obviously the third one has been tough for us so hopefully we can keep the momentum going."
Little opened the scoring with a knuckler off the rush at 6:49 of the first period. Little took the puck down the right side after getting a pass from Ehlers, and after making a quick move to the inside, he fired a shot that changed direction off a defender, beating Lehtonen for his 14th of the year in this, his 31st game.
Little is now on a seven-game point streak, 11 points recording (7G, 4A) in a span dating back to Jan. 18.
John Klingberg tied things up for the Stars with a power-play goal at 11:55. Pavelec made the initial save off Jamie Benn after the Stars won a faceoff, but Klingberg jumped on the rebound and chipped it up under the bar to even the score. The Stars took a 2-1 lead just 2:04 later as Benn put home the rebound off a Patrik Nemeth shot, as Pavelec knocked it down at the lip of the blue paint.
But the Jets weren't going away, knotting the game once more off a great effort from Wheeler. The captain made a terrific read in the defensive zone, intercepting at a pass up the middle before taking the puck up ice on a 3-on-2. Wheeler, showing great patience, feathered a pass through a defender and finding Scheifele on the opposite side. No. 55 made no mistake, hammering into the open side for the first of two on the night.
Video: WPG@DAL: Scheifele one-times Wheeler's cross-ice feed
On the previous shift, Pavelec came up a timely save to keep the Jets in it. Patrick Sharp unloaded a one-timer from the top of the circles, but the veteran stuck out the right pad with a rapier-like block.
"It was huge. That was big for us. That was just one, and he had a ton of really good saves. He really kept us in it," Scheifele said.
"It was a great game tonight and now we've got Colorado where we can make it a pretty good road trip."
LATE HITS: Mathieu Perreault returned the lineup after missing three games with a broken finger. Perreault skated on a line with Nic Petan and Chris Thorburn, and recorded one assist in 8:11 of ice time. … Brandon Tanev was a healthy scratch.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com