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Jets Win 5-1 at Home, Pulling Even With First-Place Stars

Photos by Scott Stroh

Jets Win 5-1 at Home, Pulling Even With First-Place Stars

Tuesday night at Canada Life Centre featured a special guest appearance from Gary Bettman, the very first ever Filipino Heritage Night game and an extremely fan-friendly battle for first place in the uber-competitive Central Division.

Winnipeg beat the first-place Dallas Stars 5-1 on Tuesday, in a game that saw the two teams walk away with a near-identical 17 points on the season. The only difference? The 8-3-1 Jets have three regulation losses to the Dallas’ four (8-4-1).

Thanks in large part to Mark Scheifele’s two markers in a four-goal second period, the Jets pulled ahead and never looked back.

“I think we had 12 scoring opportunities in the first period,” head coach Rick Bowness laughed post-game. “Which we haven’t had all year, which was great for them, but so was Hellebuyck. Sometimes (when) you go for those chances, you give one up the other way… We were driving the pace when we got the puck. That’s what we want. You’ve got to try to make plays. And we were making them.”

The highly-entertaining first period may have been the best scoreless frame ever played at Canada Life Centre. It was certainly the team’s best period of the year. For entertainment value alone, fans certainly got their money’s worth in the opening 20 alone.

Near the conclusion of a high-action period, Brenden Dillon and Ty Dellandrea threw down in a spirited affair that will surely make the highlight reels for days to come.

“That was a good fight,” Scheifele said. “He’s a heart and soul guy. He blocks shots, he hits guys, he makes it hard to play against. Coming out hot after that was big for our team, so kudos to him.”

Putting up 18 shots to Dallas’ eight, Winnipeg had its fair share of chances to get on the scoreboard, but backup netminder Scott Wedgewood was up to the test.

That all changed in the middle stanza.

In a span of 3:06, the teams exchanged four goals, with Dallas scoring first and Winnipeg responding with three markers in 2:45. After Jason Robertson fittingly scored for the Stars, the Jets’ first line produced a magnificent tic-tac-toe response just 21 seconds later.

“It was just a tough night for myself and my line,” Stars forward Tyler Seguin said. “It seems like we quickly grabbed that momentum back in the second, and then bam-bam again there they scored and took it right back. We just need to be a lot better.”

Winnipeg’s second line then got in on the act, with Pierre-Luc Dubois popping his sixth of the season on one of the easiest goals he’ll score this season. Wedgewood misplayed the puck behind the net, to which Blake Wheeler poked it free to linemate Cole Perfetti. He slid it in front to PLD, who put it into the yawning cage 1:11 after Scheifele’s marker.

But the goal parade wasn’t over there. Just over a minute-and-a-half later Scheifele found his second of the contest. This time it was a beautiful Kyle Connor setup, as the team’s ‘sniper’ dished the puck cross-crease to his linemate who tapped in his eighth of the year.

“That win felt good for our line; a lot of easy breakouts, zone entries,” Mason Appleton said. “We were good off the rush and good in-zone and I thought we defended the right way tonight, too. I think that can be a focus of our line because sometimes you get caught offensively and sometimes they get a rush. But I thought we managed the game really well in that aspect tonight and got off from there.”

Saku Maenalenen scored his first as a Jet to conclude the wild period. Perfectly redirecting a long-range Neal Pionk wrist shot, the role player got to hear his personal goal song for the first time this season.

The Jets outshot their guests 10-7 in the frame, bringing the two period totals to 28-15.

“They’re starting to realize that we’ve got a good team here and if we play the right way and we play fast and we pressure them, that first period was a pretty good example of it,” Bowness said. “We had a lot of great opportunities offensively from playing good defence and moving the puck quick. It’s starting to sink in. There’s always room for improvement. We’ve got a long way to go and still have lots of work ahead of us, but we’re getting there.”

Reigning Lady Byng Trophy winner Kyle Connor found himself in the sin bin on a two-minute tripping minor late in the third period, but his mates were up to task, killing off the rare blunder.

“We’re just comfortable playing our game,” Scheifele said of his team’s late-game shut-down ability. “We’re not sitting back on our heels, we’re playing on our toes, we’re making it hard on teams to make plays and make continuous passes. That comes with playing fast and having good sticks and trusting your teammates. I think we’ve done a really good job with that.”

Opting to pull early for the extra attacker, Dallas could only watch as Mason Appleton carried the puck the length of the ice before potting it into the empty net with just under three minutes to play, sealing the deal for Winnipeg.

Connor Hellebuyck continued his early-season dominance and finished off the night with 22 saves on 23 Dallas shots, picking up his seventh win in the process. His counterpart Scott Wedgewood settled down after a disastrous second period, but ultimately lost the game in that middle frame. He finished the night with just 28 saves on 32 Jets shots.

Winnipeg’s 17 points through 12 games to open the season is the very best start for the club in franchise history.

The Jets are now 8-3-1 on the season and have won three-straight. They now hit the road for back-to-back weekend contests in Calgary and Seattle. Saturday’s game will be a late-night 9:00 PM central start time, while Sunday’s game will get underway at 7:00 PM. Saturday’s contest can be viewed live on CBC, while Sunday’s matchup will be aired on TSN.

“We’ve gotten our rest, we’ve used it to our advantage and played some really good games at home,” Scheifele added. “We’ve got another few good days of rest coming up here and some days to work on some things and get better. We’ve got to keep that attitude, there’s no being satisfied in this league. You’ve got to keep working for more and playing for more and working on your game. So we’ve got a couple days to do that.”

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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