WINNIPEG – That old saying summed it nicely: “We just didn’t bury our chances.”
The breakaways. The posts. The glorious looks on the goal line. The Winnipeg Jets fired plenty at Antti Niemi, but the Stars goalie spoiled the fun.
Down 4-3 late in the third period, Tyler Myers had the best chance of all, but his wrister from the high slot grazed iron – an inch too high on the yawning target. Seconds later, Antoine Roussel scored into the empty net, sealing a 5-3 win.
“Once I saw (Bryan Little) wasn’t going to shoot it, I just tried to find some open space in the slot,” Myers said of the play. “He made a real good pass to me and I put it on the side I wanted to, but I put it too high.”
It was that kind of night.
The Jets were good in both the first and third periods, but a calm in the second proved costly, as the Stars scored twice in the final five minutes, turning a one-goal deficit into a 3-2 lead.
“It’s a 60-minute game,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “They’re a good enough team that if you give them 10 or 20 minutes of room, they’ll make you bleed for it and we did.”
Drew Stafford got the Jets on the board first with a power-play goal at 14:16. With his back to the half wall, No. 12 took a feed from the D and fired a blast over the shoulder of Niemi. The goal was later credited to Andrew Ladd, who got a piece of it in front.
The power play has now struck in each of the past three games – a feat of consistency that hadn’t previously been achieved in 49 prior contests.
The Jets finished the night 1-for-3 with the man advantage.
The Stars levelled the score with a power-play goal of their own just 51 seconds into the middle frame. Tyler Seguin – who came into the night without a point in nine of his past 11 games – fired a shot similar to Stafford’s rattling it off the back bar behind Connor Hellebuyck.
The Jets went back in front at 4:41 as the indomitable Adam Lowry – back from injury – jammed home a loose puck on his third try in the blue paint. The goal came on the heels of a questionable boarding penalty to Dustin Byfuglien, which Blake Wheeler, Stafford and the rest easily took care of.
“Matty made a nice play getting to the net and I just tried to get to the net and find the rebound,” Lowry said of the goal.
Missed opportunities then turned the tables. After Little and Andrew Copp both failed to score on breakaways just minutes apart, the Stars took advantage with two in 2:11.
The Stars tied it up as a breakaway-turned-3-on-0 ended up in the back of the net with 5:19 to play in the period. John Klingberg was the last to make contact, finishing off a pass from fellow defenceman Jason Demers with the roof-job over Hellebuyck’s left arm.
Vern Fiddler then gave Dallas lead with a shot from the far circle, squeezing it under the blocker.
“There’s no easy answer for that (lull),” Stafford said. “They were just harder on the puck than we were. They won more battles.
"There were a couple turnovers on our end, some sloppy play, some sloppy reads. You can’t be giving up 2-on-0’s, 3-on-0’s. … You get into a track meet with them, they have such a great transition and it paid off for them.”
Seguin put this one to bed with another PPG early in the third, rifling a shot far side for his 27th of the campaign. Byfuglien pulled the Jets within one with 9:46 to play, gunning a slapper off the post and in for his fourth goal in the past three games.
But it wasn’t enough.
LATE HITS: Byfuglien took the time post-game to clarify a comment he made at the All-Star Game about potentially re-signing in Winnipeg. The defenceman is set to become an unrestricted free agent if he is not signed before then: “You never want to leave home,” he said. “I’ve been here a long time, my family’s here, I have two kids here. It’s somewhere you don’t want to leave.”
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com