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The Winnipeg Jets have experienced monumental struggles against the Central Division-rival Dallas Stars during the 2018-19 NHL season.
They better come up with some answers if there happens to be a next time.
Dallas broke open a scoreless contest with goals by Esa Lindell, Radek Faksa and Tyler Seguin in the second period and staved off a late rally by the Jets to secure a 5-2 victory at Bell MTS Place on Monday night.
Stars goalie Ben Bishop made 21 saves to register his seventh victory in his last eight starts. Kyle Connor, with his 33rd goal, and Patrik Laine, with his 30th, beat the veteran netminder in the final period to cut the Stars’ 4-0 lead in half.
The Stars picked up three wins in four meetings this season with the Jets, who displayed only sporadic signs of the energy and grit that sparked them to a resounding 5-0 triumph over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night to kick off four straight at the downtown arena.
There’s a distinct possibility Winnipeg and Dallas could collide in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Jets (45-27-4) lead the division, although the gap narrowed to just two points tonight. The second-place Nashville Predators beat the Minnesota Wild 1-0 in St. Paul. The Jets still have a game in hand on the Preds.
Dallas (39-31-6), meanwhile, occupy the first wild-card playoff spot and which would start against the Jets if the postseason began today. Dallas is now three points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche.
The Jets’ bottom-six forwards threw some heavy hits and had a buzzsaw forecheck going to invigorate the squad, however, the Scheifele and Kevin Hayes lines were slogging in quicksand for much of the night. Connor snapped Bishop’s shutout bid with his with about nine minutes left in the final frame, while Laine halted a 12-game scoring slump with just under five minutes remaining.
Laine was a Stars killer during his rookie and sophomore seasons with 14 goals in nine games against the Central rivals. But he has just one marker in four games this year.
Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck made 12 saves in the first frame, including a terrific blocker save on Jason Dickinson on a short-handed breakway in the first period that kept the game scoreless. He finished with 32 saves.
The finest save of the night — and among the biggest jaw-droppers of season — Scheifele, who batted the puck out of midair just as it was about to sail into the wide-open cage. Hellebuyck had turned aside consecutive shots by Miro Heiskanen and Blake Comeau but was caught out of position, and then Scheifele bunted away a rebound try by Heiskanen.
But the rink had a discernible slant toward the Jets cage in the middle period.
Stars defenceman Esa Lindell supplied his 10th goal midway at 10:27 on a long point shot that Hellebuyck didn’t see courtesy of Radek Faska’s effective screen. Faksa then beefed up the Stars lead with his 14th tally less than two minutes later after a terrific pass from Mattias Janmark.
Bishop stopped Lowry on a shorthanded breakaway, a huge moment in the contest. The Jets were tagged for too many men on the ice, and Seguin netted his 30th with a shot over Hellebuyck’s right shoulder with Dallas on a five-on-three.
Seguin then added his 31st in the third, flashing some nifty hands to roof the puck from the doorstep with Winnipeg a man short, while Faksa added his 15th into an empty net.
The Jets continue a four-game home stand when former captain Andrew Ladd and the New York Islanders hit town Thursday night.
Winnipeg picked up a 3-1 road victory in early December in its only meeting this season with the Islanders, who were missing Ladd to an ankle injury that sidelined him for three months. The 33-year-old left-winger, a 14-year NHL veteran and two-time Stanley Cup winner, has just three goals — all scored in October — and eight assists in 26 contests this year.
The Jets wind up the home stand Saturday when the desperate Montreal Canadiens, clinging to an Eastern Conference wild-card spot, pay a visit.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).