Patrik Laine's third career hat trick lifted the Jets to a 5-2 win over the Dallas Tuesday, and now with 26 on the year, he sits only goal back of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews for the rookie lead, in four fewer games.
Head Coach Paul Maurice applauded the work of his young star, saying post-game that even if he hadn't scored the three goals, it still would have been his best and most complete game of the season.
He was just that good.
"We went through the video and he's not on the 'corrections' portion of the video," Maurice said. "That's a really great improvement from the start of the year. … I really, really liked his game."
Laine scored the game winner with 5:07 to play in a then 2-2 game, using some incredible stick work to gain possession off a tied draw before pulling it back and firing a bullet over Stars goalie Antti Niemi's left shoulder.
Video: DAL@WPG: Laine nets third career hat trick
Laine, Matthews and fellow Leaf Mitch Marner, who leads the rookie class in points with 48 (one up on Laine), will tangle next Tuesday as the Jets conclude their eastern swing with a stop at Toronto's Air Canada Center.
"It's going to be a sideshow. There's no fixing that," Maurice said.
"This guy, for 18, is rock solid and mature. I'd like to see him play the game (in Toronto) that he played last night, goals aside. We're really proud of where he's at. He's going to score because he just does. His goal last night, those hands, his 5-on-5 game, the physicality, compete… Everything was right."
The Jets begin four-game road trip on Thursday's against the NHL's leading goal-getter, Sidney Crosby, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Crosby recorded career point No. 999 in a 4-0 win over the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday and will have a chance to get No. 1000 when the Jets visit the Steel City in the season's first head-to-head matchup.
Video: PRACTICE | Paul Maurice
"The resurgence," Maurice said when asked what impresses him most about the two-time Cup champ. "The injuries that he had, had a significant impact on a number of years of his career, and now he's back looking stronger than ever. That's resilience. That's not accidental and that's not talent. There's a lot of will and determination that goes into that."
With that said, Maurice isn't concerned about the milestone. Whether it happens or not, the two points are his and the team's main focus.
"They're all going to be wrapped up in it, and he's probably going to get it. He can get his 1,000th point and that's fine. We just need to win this game."
Mark Scheifele recorded three assists in Tuesday's win over the Stars, and has now surpassed the 200-point plateau in just 283 career games. He casually brushed it off when asked about it Wednesday, but the smile said it all. It's confirmation of the season he's had, and the player he's become.
He is now only seven points back of Connor McDavid for the NHL points lead, and five behind Crosby for the league lead in goals.
Video: PRACTICE | Mark Scheifele
If the Jets are going to make a serious push for the playoffs, Scheifele knows he'll have to continue to play at this pace, and then some, to lead the club offensively.
"We have to make a push, we've got some tough opponents coming up and we know we have to be on our 'A' game," he said. "But for us we have to take it game by game. We can't look ahead and look at our bye week coming up. We have to focus on getting points and moving up the standings each and every day.
"Hopefully we can make a run here."
Andrew Copp will not travel with the team to Pittsburgh, as he suffered an upper-body injury late in Tuesday's game. Toby Enstrom (lower body) did not travel either.
Ondrej Pavelec (lower body) will travel, and could play at some point over the four-game swing.
Marko Dano (lower body), who took part in the optional skate today, still donning the yellow, non-contact jersey, will travel as well but is not expected to play.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com