Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff likes to point out that there are no easy games in the NHL. Thursday night was proof. The struggling Winnipeg Jets found out Thursday morning that Bryan Little – their second leading scorer – was out for the season with a back injury. Just before Thurday’s game, the Jets traded Andrew Ladd – their captain – to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Jets seemed ripe for the picking by the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars, but on this night the Jets did the picking, blowing by the Stars, 6-3, at American Airlines Center.
“I think we didn’t bring enough desperation and let them embarrass us tonight because of it,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “When we give up six goals at home, that’s unacceptable.”
“I think we had a tough night in a couple of areas,” said Ruff. “I thought our defense had a tough night with some breakdowns. I thought our goaltending had a tough night. We looked like a slow team.”
The loss was the third in the past four games for the Stars, and they’ve given up 19 goals in those three losses – six goals in two of the games and seven in the other.
“It’s a bad stretch. We’re certainly not happy with the results,” said Stars forward Patrick Sharp. “We have a day and a bit here to regroup, look at the tape, talk with the coaches and figure out what the problem is.”
Said Ruff: “I’ve got to get this team in a different place. We won’t win games, obviously, with that many goals-against going in.”
The Stars started well, but the Jets scored three goals in the final five minutes of the first period to take a 3-0 lead. The Stars rallied to tie, scoring two power play goals in the second and then at even strength early in the third. But the Jets popped in two quick goals later in the third to take control of the game.
“Ultimately it’s the same story in the last few games. We’re giving up too many chances against,” said Sharp. “That’s on us as a group. We can get better at that, and we’ll start that next game.”
Spezza scored two goals for the Stars. Tyler Seguin also scored. Sharp recorded three assists. Antti Niemi got the start in goal and lasted only one period after allowing three goals on eight shots. Kari Lehtonen played the rest of the way and stopped 17 of 20.
Mark Scheifele registered one goal and three assists, and Joel Armia tallied two goals and one assist for the Jets (26-30-4), who snapped a four-game losing streak and began life without their captain, Ladd, who was on his way to Chicago.
“It’s tough. Obviously with a guy like [Ladd], a guy that’s such a big part of this team, to see him not a part of it and be gone is saddening,” said Scheifele. “We pushed through. We got through it. We knew we had a big game at hand and came through with a win that’s huge.”
The Stars had an 11-4 shots advantage 15 minutes into the game, but the Jets scored on their fifth and sixth shots in a 56-second span to take a 2-0 lead. Blake Wheeler scored from the right circle off the rush at 15:03 of the first to put Winnipeg up 1-0. After Scheifele won an offensive zone draw, Toby Enstrom scored from the left circle to make it a 2-0 game at the 15:59 mark. The Jets extended their lead to 3-0 in the final seconds of the first when Armia put a shot on goal from beyond the top of the left circle off the rush that slipped through Niemi with 2.8 seconds left.
“I think if you look at the second and third goals, our goaltender would want those back,” Ruff said. “The third one for sure and the second one, I thought from the bench that he slid out of his lane. Those are tough ones. We had a lot of good going on but then a couple like that go in.”
Lehtonen took over in net to start the second. The Stars got two power plays early in the period and cashed in on both to cut the Winnipeg lead to 3-2. Spezza backhanded home the rebound of a Sharp shot to make it a 3-1 game at the 1:59 mark. Seguin scored less than two minutes later on another power play, putting home the rebound of a Valeri Nichushkin shot to make it a 3-2 game at 3:51 of the second.
Spezza scored 2:23 into the third, beating Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson with a sharp angle shot off the rush to tie the game 3-3. But the Jets scored two goals in 40 seconds to take a 5-3 lead. Nikolaj Ehlers centered the puck to a wide-open Scheifele, who scored from close range to put the Jets up 4-3 at 6:58. Armia scored a highlight reel goal at the 7:38 mark to put the Jets ahead 5-3, turning Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya around off the rush and putting the puck past Lehtonen.
Jacob Trouba scored off a slap shot to round out the scoring, making it a 6-3 final.
*The Stars have allowed 6 goals or more nine times this season.
*The Stars are 3-5-0 in their past eight games at home.
*The Stars are 14-6-2 vs. the Central Division.
*The Stars outshot the Jets 30-28 and had a 54-49 advantage in shot attempts.
*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with four shots on goal and nine shot attempts.
*The Stars were 2-4 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 28 of 65 faceoffs (43 percent).
*Radek Faksa won 4 of 8 faceoffs (50 percent). Jamie Benn won 4 of 8 (50 percent). Tyler Seguin won 7 of 11 (45 percent). Cody Eakin won 7 of 17 (41 percent). Jason Spezza won 6 of 16 (38 percent).
*Jason Demers led the Stars with 23:31 of ice time.
*Patrick Sharp registered three assists in Thursday’s game and is now riding a four-game points streak (1 goal, 5 assists).
The Stars continue their homestand Saturday afternoon, taking on the New York Rangers at American Airlines Center. Game time is 3 p.m.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Patrick Sharp
Vernon Fiddler – Radek Faksa – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Patrik Nemeth
Injured: Patrick Eaves (illness), Travis Moen (lower body)
Scratched: Jordie Benn, Jamie Oleksiak
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.