Stars Start and Finish Strong but The Jets Earn a Point
The Jets would receive some good news before last night’s game when it was reported that Nathan Beaulieu would return from injury, and Luca Sbisa would be able to suit up after taking a renegade skate to the nether regions in the previous game. A surprise to many after hearing the tough as nails defenseman say he would rather take a slapshot off his barefoot than have to go through that again. Yeesh!
And since we’re on the topic of choice quotes, Patrik Laine who, leading up to this game, has managed to score 18 goals in 16 games against the Stars, stated “I wish we played 82 against those guys”. Some wondered if this made for bulletin board material, of course, if you’ve ever heard this guy in an interview before, you know it’s just his regular tongue in cheek hilarity. On to the game.
With the Jets and Stars meeting for the 4th time in just 26 games, after ruthlessly dismantling them 5-1 just 2 days prior, it was no surprise this game had a fair bit of emotion. Something Paul Maurice noted before the game when he predicted that Dallas would have the emotional advantage.
It didn’t take long for him to be proven right as Corey Perry, after the whistle, poked in a puck that was under Hellebuyck’s pads and started a full-on scrum minutes into the game. The Jets were making some poor passes and looking rather tentative in the early going, and the Stars pounced, getting several good chances.
Ehlers, off the rush, managed a clever behind the back spinorama pass to Jack Roslovic that Bishop turned aside with one of his freakishly long legs. But the Stars would come right back with a Jamie Benn deflection that Hellebuyck got just enough of. This was followed up by another close call after Anthony Bitteto got walked by Radek Faksa. Hellebuyck would make the save, but with the rebound left for the picking, it was Bitteto lying down on the goal line to stop the puck and totally redeem himself. This made the Stars angry and another scrum ensued. The Jets may have dodged one here as the puck appeared to go under Bitteto, but with no conclusive evidence, it was still zip -zip.
The Stars would continue to pour it on, and after a couple minors for each team, Laine was called for tripping and it would go to 4 on 3. Sbisa made a nice defensive play to break up a pass, however Benn came right back and ripped a shot past Hellebuyck for the lead.
4 minutes into the 2nd period the Jets would get their first powerplay, but were stunted by a very effective Stars kill. Things weren’t looking great for Winnipeg at this point, with the exception of Hellebuyck, who was tracking the puck well and making effortless looking saves on difficult shots. Unfortunately, that streak would end on a wicked wrister to the far side by Denis Gurianov flying down the wing.
Still, he would have to make a couple more ten bell saves before the period ended. No thanks to Mark Scheifele who, during a scoring chance, took a fairly obvious hooking call against Benn in the slot, and then chirped the refs for an extra two minutes. Is it just me, or does Scheifele need to can it when frustrated with the zebras? It seems he is often in their faces, and immediately after the infraction is called. Maybe sit down for two Scheife, have a Gatorade and think over what you need to convey.
The Jets would end the period with their second powerplay, and despite moving the puck well, could not put anything by Bishop. There was a fun moment watching a Stars defender correctly read the one time pass over to Laine, only to cringe as he awaited the pain. Lucky for him, Laine missed and we were treated with Ray Ferraro wondering, “did he really want to block that thing?”
Now if there is one thing that I have enjoyed watching this year, it’s the Jets down, going into the 3rd period. Credit to the team for never giving up, but it seems to be more than that. With all of the young legs and immense offensive skill this team possesses, it almost seems a mistake for opposing teams to try and defend a lead.
Last night was no exception as Blake Wheeler kicked things off with a somewhat lucky shot that made its way off of Bishop’s shoulder, then his skate, and into the net. Still, the pressure was on and you could smell what the Jets were cooking. Almost off of the ensuing faceoff, Lowry was sent in behind the Dallas D with a perfectly weighted pass and deked out Bishop only to put it off the post. But they were far from finished with this one.
Cycling the puck in the Stars zone, for what seemed like an eternity, with a plethora of nifty attempts, it just felt like something had to give. And it did. Finally. After Connor deftly dug the puck out of the corner to a well positioned Laine, he proceeded to flip a perfect saucer pass over to Scheifele, all alone in front of the net. He would make no mistake and the game was tied. Well, for everyone but Stars coach Jim Montgomery, who desperately requested that the refs look at the play to see if there was any need for a stoppage in play that somehow went unseen for the 2 minutes the Jets spent in their zone before scoring. Nice try Jim, not today.
A little bit of luck did however come to his squad, as Josh Morrissey was called for holding the stick on a rather innocent looking play that afforded the Stars the extra man. It did not take them long to finish it. After Tyler Seguin raced in a whipped a shot off Hellebuyck’s glove, the puck came right back to him, and he fed Joe Pavelski for the tap in. A late, great effort for the boys in blue, and a very worthy single point.
With the win, Dallas remains in the top wild card spot with 35 points in 30 games, but creep up behind the Jets who are still locked into the number 3 hole in the Central with 36 points in 29 games.
Looking ahead, it appears as though Mason Appleton and Gabriel Bourque are about ready to return from injury. Add in the new guy Nick Shore, claimed off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs, and we may be seeing an all new 4th line come Sunday. As much as I’ve enjoyed watching guys like Joona Luoto and Logan Shaw give it their all out there, it does appear that they are better suited for the AHL game.
David Gustavsson, on the other hand, appears to be an NHLer in the making, however rumor has it, he may be heading off to the World Juniors to represent Sweden, and then finish the year in his home country. Probably not a bad idea with the other guys coming back, and the big club not having yet seen the 26 year old KHL recruit Andrei Chibisov, who has played admirably for the Manitoba Moose collecting 15 points in 23 games.