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No laughing matter: Stars must serve up revenge in rematch with Jets

After a forgettable performance in Winnipeg, Dallas returns home badly in need of a passionate answer

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

While they were singing the Star-Spangled Banner Tuesday at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, a weak call of "Stars!" came up from a few fans in Victory Green.

It's a tradition in Dallas, and the booming chorus is usually overwhelming. On the road, there is generally enough oomph in the cry to make a presence, and there are some games when the visiting Stars fans actually force the hometown crowd to respond with their own verbal volley.

But when Jets fans heard the harmless chirp on Tuesday, they simply laughed. That's right, enough people in the crowd just naturally laughed out loud so that it was very audible.

It would actually become a theme for the night.


[MORE COVERAGE: Stars get shellacked by Jets in their 'worst game of the year']


When John Klingberg missed the net badly on a transition rush later in the game, a couple of loud laughs were heard in the press box.

And when the game was over and the Jets had won 5-1, winger Patrik Laine chuckled when asked about his success against the Stars. Laine scored his 18th career goal against Dallas in his 16th career game.

"I wish we played 82 (games) against those guys, because I'd have a lot of goals," Laine said. "It just seems like it goes in. Don't have any explanation. Thank God they're in our division."

Video: DAL@WPG: Montgomery speaks following loss to Jets

To be fair to Laine, he wasn't really laughing at the Stars, just the fact that he has had more success against them than any other team. But the point is still there -- the Jets and their fans were having a lot of fun Tuesday.

And that's important, because it speaks to the role of emotion in the game of hockey.

Before the Stars and Jets began a mini-series of head-to-head meetings in a span of three days, both sides talked about how big this was. Dallas and Winnipeg each had 33 points. Dallas and Winnipeg each had battled adversity. Dallas and Winnipeg both believe they can be contenders once they sort through all of their respective growing pains.

So these two games were pretty important.

On the opening shift, the Jets displayed their intensity, creating a scoring chance for Laine, who popped in a terrific shot just 13 seconds into the contest. It was an opening flurry that staggered the Stars.

Fortunately for Dallas, the goal was disallowed because the Jets were offside when they entered the offensive zone, and you would have thought that would have helped the Stars take a breath and understand the intensity required for this game. You would have also thought it might have caused a little air to go out of the Jets.

It didn't.

Video: DAL Recap: Heiskanen nets lone Stars goal in 5-1 loss

Winnipeg came back just as hard, Dallas looked just as shocked.

When Anton Khudobin made several spectacular saves to keep the score 1-0 after the first period, you would have thought the Stars would have had their "pushback" to get back into the game. Even when Miro Heiskanen made a dazzling individual dance through the defense to bring the Stars to within 3-1 late in the second period, you would have thought we might have had another Minnesota Wild moment, where one play flips the script in a game.

But we didn't.

Winnipeg scored in transition, with Mark Scheifele making a tantalizing feed to Laine for the above-mentioned goal. It came with 30.4 seconds left in the second period and was a dominating statement from a Jets team which imposed its will, as they like to say in the NHL.

The fact that the moment called back to the Wild game is important. It's something this team needs to study internally, because the Stars changed that contest on the momentum of an incredibly emotional shift from Alexander Radulov that not only cut the deficit to two goals, it inspired his teammates. Radulov's passion was electric that night, and the message would turn out to be a big key in the Stars' 11-0-1 run. It helped set a template for how the Stars could play aggressive defensively in a manner that allowed them to challenge the opposition. Instead of absorbing another team's best shot, Dallas was punching and counter-punching during the streak.

That energy fed each line and each pairing, and the Stars really became a team that was "hard to play against."

Yes, there were moments when things weren't always perfect. Radulov continues to frustrate with his penalties -- his 15 minors are second in the NHL -- and the Stars continue to battle to find poise offensively because they seem too intense in their scoring chances. Passion can go overboard at times, but the game of intense proactive details that the Stars were throwing out on a regular basis during their hot streak really was quite successful.

Video: DAL@WPG: Stars continue search for consistency

And that's why Tuesday's meeting was so confusing.

The Stars showed cracks in recent games where the details were slipping, but you just didn't think they were going to be so outbattled by another team. You just didn't think they would have absolutely no answer to the Jets' best effort.

You just didn't think they were going to be the butt of a joke.

The good thing about this home-and-home is it's like an epic rap battle. The Jets had their chance to hold the mic and spit their insults, and now the Stars have a chance to answer.

When the two teams play Thursday, the guess is you will see one of the most emotional offerings from Dallas in some time. They need to be upset by that last game, they need to respond as a team.

The requirements of playing fierce, detailed defense are intelligence, consistency and synergy, but maybe the most important aspect of playing hockey is passion.

If you don't have it, no amount of game plan is going to make up for it.


Stars (15-11-3) vs. Jets (17-10-1)

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: American Airlines Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Winnipeg Jets when they return home to American Airlines Center on Thursday night. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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