DALLAS, Texas – Nine days, five cities and more than 11,000 kilometres traveled, the Winnipeg Jets will now head home from their longest trip of the season, but not on the winning note they preferred, losing 2-1 in a shootout to the Dallas Stars Thursday at American Airlines Center.
Patrick Sharp scored the shootout winner while Tyler Seguin and Mathieu Perreault scored the lone goals in regulation.
“There wasn’t anything left [in the tank],” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “Anything that happened tonight was just on will. … I’m glad we got that point tonight because we earned that point.”
With the shootout loss, the Jets finish up their five-game trip with a 2-2-1 record (19-19-3 for 41 points overall), and are now just four back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“It’s a good number,” Maurice said. “We’ve played 24 road games, 17 at home and have played nine sets of back-to-backs. The schedule has been a lot to handle and being able to pick up some real key points and wins on this road trip has put us in a good spot.
"It’s going to be an absolute slugfest right to the end but we’re right in striking distance.”
The Stars opened the scoring at 7:55 as Tyler Seguin broke loose of a check in front, found a loose puck and roofed it over a sprawling Connor Hellebuyck. Patrick Sharp made it all possible, spinning off a defender and chopping a bouncing puck into the blue paint where Seguin buried it, tying Jamie Benn for the team lead in goals with 24.
“We knew they were going to come out fired up as it hasn’t gone their way of late. They did that. We weathered the storm and got our legs in the second half of the game,” Blake Wheeler said.
Drew Stafford had a great look leading a 2-on-1 early in the second, but his wrister rang off the crossbar and out of play.
Undeterred, the Jets tied things up at 6:47, as Perreault had all kinds of time at the top of the right circle, firing a shot blocker side on Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen. Nikolaj Ehlers and Tyler Myers picked up the helpers, with the latter extending an already impressive run with his ninth point (3G, 6A) in his last 11 games.
“Given that they’re the top team in the division, conference and league … we were kind of able to shut them down," Perreault said. "There are a lot of positives to take from that game. It was obviously not the result we wanted but it’s a big point for us.”
The Jets were better team at both ends of the ice in the middle frame, outshooting the Stars 12-4 and controlling 16 of the period’s total 5-on-5 shot attempts.
“We battled hard, that’s what it comes down to. We give ourselves a chance going home to rack up some points and get back in the race."
Stafford was called for high sticking at 6:45 of the third, setting up a critical penalty kill. The Jets were excellent, possessing the puck throughout the disadvantage and not allowing the Stars to get set up, let alone register a shot. For a team looking to improve in that area – considering the time, score and opponent – this was a big step in the right direction.
Late in the third, Sharp made a strong cut to the net, but Hellebuyck came up with a marvellous left pad save, thwarting the four-time 30-goal scorer’s efforts to break the 1-1 tie.
The Jets outshot the Stars 5-2 in overtime, but ultimately fell in the shootout.
“We’re scratching and clawing,” Wheeler said. “It hasn’t been pretty. Our intentions have been great. We’ve been battling on every puck. You can start to see that give us a little success.”
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com