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Stars earn needed points, confidence in slump-busting win

Dallas may have given a point back to Winnipeg in its OT victory, but it gained so much more

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

DALLAS -- The Stars gave back a point to the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night, but they gained so much more.

One, Dallas made several great plays in overtime, answering the challenge of a final-minute tying goal and getting a 3-2 win that broke a four-game winless streak.

Two, Joe Pavelski scored the game-winner, breaking a nine-game point drought and lifting a fairly sizable monkey off of his back.

 

[READ MORE: Pavelski's goal lifts Stars to overtime win over Jets]

 

Three, the Stars regained their confidence, their poise and their pride by answering their worst game of the year (a 5-1 loss in Winnipeg Tuesday) with a gritty performance just two days later.

"I thought we played with really good emotion throughout the entire game," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "I thought it was important that we responded, and we did respond. I really liked the way we came out and went after them."

Video: WPG@DAL: Pavelski pots quick shot for overtime winner

When asked what the team learned about itself, Blake Comeau said: "I think we showed each other how we have to play. The game in Winnipeg was polar opposite, it just kind of looked like we were waiting for the other guy to do it…kind of taking the easy way out. Tonight, it was just a hard-fought game. Physical, special teams were good. Little disappointing that we gave them a point at the end, but that's the way it goes at the end of the day.

"We got the extra point, and we'll take it."

This was a big-time test for the Stars. They were starting to fumble during games against Chicago, St. Louis and Minnesota, and then they were absolutely embarrassed by the Jets on the road.

So you really kinda wondered what they would do at home with their pedigree challenged and their own fans ready to be the ultimate judge of whether they were working hard enough. We have heard boos here before this season, so a half-hearted performance was not going to be accepted.

It didn't have to be.

Video: WPG@DAL: Montgomery recaps exciting Stars win in OT

Dallas played with intensity, discipline and aggression en route to a 2-0 lead in the second period. The only real criticism was it could have been more, as the Stars out-shot the Jets 14-8 in the first period and 16-15 in the second. Corey Perry had a goal waived off because of a quick whistle, and Comeau swore he missed out on a goal because refs couldn't see the puck over the line underneath a pile of bodies.

Mix into that the fact Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck was determined to keep his team in the game, and you see how this could have turned into a runaway for Dallas had it simply finished some great chances. The fact it didn't could be something that could actually help down the road.

As much as the Stars didn't close out the game the way they should have, they also didn't collapse after they allowed a late goal on a coverage mistake. Winnipeg pushed hard, kept the puck in the offensive zone, and then earned a face-off when Esa Lindell tried to score on an empty-net from long distance. With the Stars tired and scrambling, the Jets moved the puck to a wide-open Mark Scheifele for a game-tying goal with 44.6 second left.

It was disappointing in a lot of ways. Lindell's shot was inches from ending the game, and the Stars simply didn't execute well in a key moment. Because of that, Winnipeg takes three points out these two games and Dallas gets just two. That leaves The Jets at 17-10-2 (36 points) and the Stars at 16-11-3 (35 points). That could be important down the road.

But if you're looking for a silver lining, then the overtime had plenty. Dallas had a 6-2 advantage in shots on goal, and Pavelski not only drew a holding-the-stick penalty from Josh Morrissey, he then converted on the power play to score his first goal in 10 games, his sixth of the year.

Video: Pavelski notches OT winner to lift Stars past Jets

"Pretty good to see that one come," Pavelski said.

Both Pavelski and Denis Gurianov ended long goal droughts and point droughts, and for a team that has been struggling to score the past four games, that was a very nice bright spot. That said, it was also a reminder of hard it to score goals in this league.

"It's a really good checking league," Montgomery said. "You look how well the Jets are playing, and we've got the Islanders coming in (Saturday), they're teams that check and you don't get a lot of great opportunities. You've got to work for them, and I like the way we work together."

The coaching staff made the decision to scratch forward Alexander Radulov and juggle the forward lines. They also mixed up the defense pairs in an attempt to shake things up. Montgomery liked the chemistry of the forwards, and also felt the group of defensemen was improved in its play.

Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Justin Dowling combined for 11 shots on goal, while Pavelski, Roope Hintz and Mattias Janmark had seven. Comeau, Radek Faksa and Andrew Cogliano had five. On defense, Esa Lindell played beside Miro Heiskanen for most of the game, with John Klingberg and Andrej Sekera on the second pair, and Roman Polak beside Jamie Oleksiak on the third.

Video: WPG@DAL: Pavelski on scoring OT winner for Stars

"I thought it worked well to be able to get the match-ups we were looking to get," Montgomery said. "I thought Klingberg was really good tonight…and I thought (Oleksiak) and (Polak) were really good matching up against (Adam Lowry)."

So will he stay with that lineup against the Islanders, or does he need to get Radulov back in? Will he trust the D-pairs, or is New York a different challenge? It's the beauty of an 82-game season, because the decisions never stop.

The Stars on Thursday weren't perfect. They gave a point away to a division rival, and that could eventually hurt. But the fact they were able to dial up an effort befitting this team's identity was pretty darn important for Game No. 30.

"Our game had gotten away from us a little bit," said Pavelski. "We invested a lot through that winning streak. I think the biggest challenge is to invest that every night, and for whatever reason, we got away from it a little bit. Tonight, the message was received, we needed a better effort. That was more our hockey."

In a lot of different ways for a lot of different players.

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the New York Islanders as they continue the homestand at American Airlines Center on Saturday, Dec. 7. 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 DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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