It was a familiar story for the Dallas Stars Tuesday night in Winnipeg. They had plenty of chances to put the puck in the net, but the finish wasn’t there and neither was the most important result – points in the standings. The Stars’ saw their winless streak hit four games with a 4-2 loss to the Jets at MTS Centre.
The Stars had a 66-45 advantage in attempted shots and hit four posts in the game. They missed the net completely a few times. Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson came up with a couple of big stops as well.
“It’s like Groundhog Day,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We dominated play, we hit four or five goal posts, [Curtis] McKenzie misses a net on a two-on-one, [Erik] Cole has an empty net and hits [Hutchinson] in the head. We didn’t finish.”
Winnipeg, meanwhile, made the most of its opportunities. The Jets didn’t get a shot for the first 14 minutes of the second period, but then took advantage of a Dallas turnover and scored on the rebound of their first shot of the period. They took advantage of a turnover five minutes into the third and scored on their first shot of that period.
“You know you are going to make a mistake or two, and you have to give them credit. When we made a mistake they took advantage of it,” Ruff said. “That was the counter punch that hurt us.”
Jhonas Enroth made a second straight in goal for the Stars. Ruff said Enroth got the nod in net because Kari Lehtonen had a “medical issue.” Enroth stopped 21 of 24 shots.
“[They scored on] a breakaway. A guy had two opportunities. We probably needed a big save on one of those,” Ruff said of Enroth’s performance.
The loss was the fourth straight for the Stars (0-3-1) and their third in the last six days against a team they are battling for a playoff spot. Tuesday’s loss left them 27-25-9 on the season. The Stars remain six points behind Minnesota, which holds the second wild-card spot in the West. They are ten points behind Winnipeg, which holds the first wild-card spot.
“It’s tough in a playoff race, there is no doubt,” Ruff said. “It’s a hard one to swallow because we need points. We are desperate for points.”
Four different players tallied goals and Hutchinson stopped 26 of 28 shots for the Jets, who improved to 5-2-3 over their past ten games.
“We played our game,” said Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba. “They like to open it up, and they can hurt you, but we stayed the course and we buried our opportunities.”
The Jets went on the night’s first power play four minutes into the game when Jason Spezza was called for cross-checking, and they took advantage. Bryan Little’s shot from the left circle deflected off Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski and into the net at the 5:05 mark to put the Jets up 1-0.
The Stars dominated play in the second period but came big early, stopping a close-range bid by John Klingberg with the Stars on the power play. Cole had a great chance, but his shot hit Hutchinson in the head. The Stars finally tied the game at the 12:00 mark when Spezza set up Cole, who scored from about 25 feet out to make it a 1-1 game.
The Stars held the Jets without a shot for the first 14-and-a-half minutes of the second, but a turnover led to Adam Lowry getting a close-range backhand shot and then Lowry scored on his own rebound to put Winnipeg ahead 2-1 at the 14:34 mark. And it stayed 2-1 heading into the second intermission after a period where the Stars had the far better chances.
“Their goalie made some key saves, but we didn’t put some pucks on net that we could have or should have, and didn’t finish hard on a couple of opportunities,” said Cole. “I think it’s a combination of those things. You come out of a period where you dominated the team and gave them one scoring chance, and they capitalize on it and you’re still down one.”
The Stars went on a power play early in the third but couldn’t cash in. Hutchinson came up with a big stop on Hemsky. The Jets extended the lead at the 5:05 mark when the Stars turned the puck over in the Winnipeg end and Trouba set up Dustin Byfuglien, who scored on a breakaway to make it a 3-1 game.
“The game is 2-1 and you give up a breakaway. It’s just one of those deflating goals,” said Cole “We continued to push, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough.”
The Stars pulled Enroth for an extra attacker with 3:21 remaining, but Michael Frolik scored into an empty net to make it a 4-1 game. Jason Demers scored off the rush with 1:07 left to round out the scoring in the game.
*The Stars are 5-12-6 against the Central Division.
*The Jets are 12-6-3 against the Central.
*The Stars went 1-3-0 against Winnipeg this season.
*The Stars outshot the Jets 28-25.
*Jason Spezza and Colton Sceviour led the Stars with four shots each.
*The Stars were 0-3 on the power play and 2-3 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 35 of 70 faceoffs (50 percent).
*Vernon Fiddler won 9 of 16 draws (56 percent). Cody Eakin won 7 of 13 (54 percent). Jason Spezza won 10 of 22 (45 percent).
*Alex Goligoski and John Klingberg co-led the Stars with 24:16 of ice time each.
*Jamie Benn extended his points streak to eight games with an assist (seven goals, six assists).
*Stars center Jason Spezza picked up an assist and has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) over the past ten games.
Jamie Benn – Jason Spezza – Erik Cole
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Curtis McKenzie – Vernon Fiddler – Ales Hemsky
Brett Ritchie – Shawn Horcoff – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jyrki Jokipakka – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Jason Demers
Scratched: David Schlemko
Injured: Tyler Seguin (knee), Patrick Eaves (concussion), Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)
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.