Stars hit back, power past Jets
WINNIPEG -- The Dallas Stars had just won an old-school shoot-out with the Winnipeg Jets but you never would have known by listening to their head coach after the game.
Instead Lindy Ruff held court, albeit for less than two minutes, on the game-changing boarding penalty taken by Jets right winger Anthony Peluso when he smoked defenseman Alex Goligoski into the boards at 15:28 of the second period.
The Stars scored twice on the ensuring power play, breaking a 3-3 tie, en route to a 6-4 victory in front of 15,003 fans on Saturday at the MTS Centre.
"I thought the Peluso hit was a joke," Ruff said. "For a guy that plays that amount of time and runs a guy like Goligoski from behind? What does he play, three or four minutes a game? Go run one of our bigger guys.
"These are the hits we want to get rid of. Let's be serious. The hit was stupid. There's really no place for it. There were some good hits today. (Left winger Antoine) Roussel got hit hard a couple of times today and we hit a guy (center Mark Scheifele) into their bench.
"It was a hard-hitting game. There was a lot of emotion in the game, but we don't have any room for that type of hit."
And with that, he was gone.
For the record, Goligoski, who was cut on the play, did return to the game and ended up with nearly 22 minutes of ice time.
If nothing else, Peluso's penalty was the cure for what ailed the Stars' power play, which came into Saturday ranked last in the NHL with a proficiency of 10.5 percent.
Stars center Tyler Seguin, who had two goals and an assist, said the power play units had been getting plenty of chances in recent games but they just weren't getting the bounces.
"Our practice yesterday was just power play and penalty kill," Seguin said. "We've been focused on that. The top teams in the West have great special teams. We're trying to figure that out for us."
Linemate Jamie Benn, who had two goals, agreed.
The left winger said he and his teammates were talking before the opening face-off about how the special teams were going to make the difference against the Jets.
"We didn't really change anything (from previous games)," Benn said. "We just stuck with it and found a way to (score) a couple tonight."
Jets coach Claude Noel said his troops were unable to carry out a central plank of his game plan, contain Benn and Seguin.
"They executed," Noel said. "They were firing bullets at us. It was really disappointing."
Noel said didn't comment directly on Peluso's hit, but said any time one of his players takes a five-minute major: "It's never a good situation."
But he wasn't sure it was the difference in the game. He said the Stars first two goals, one by Seguin and one by rookie right winger Valeri Nichushkin, were the result of bad line changes.
"We practice changes," Noel said. "When the puck doesn't get to the goal line, you can't change in practice. So, why would you change in the game? (The puck) didn't get to the goal line, it got to three-quarters ice, twice."
The game was reminiscent of a mid-1980s shootout between the old Winnipeg Jets and the old Minnesota North Stars. (The latter moved south to Dallas in 1993 while the former moved to Arizona in 1996.)
The game, which was billed as a tight-checking Western Division affair, turned positively wild in the second period when five goals were scored in only 351 seconds.
The Stars opened the scoring at 7:14 of the first period when defenseman Sergei Gonchar hit Sequin with a breakaway pass and he slipped his 16th of the season past goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
The home side evened the score less than three minutes later when Jets' right winger Matt Halischuk deposited the rebound of his center, Mark Scheifele, behind Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen after some sustained pressure.
The Stars took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission after rookie right winger Valeri Nichushkin scored after turning Pavelec into a pretzel at 14:24 with some nifty stick-handling following a neutral zone turnover by Jets right winger Michael Frolik.
The Jets tied the game at 12:58 of the second period when the suddenly-streaking Blake Wheeler scored his 10th of the season and fifth in six games, following a 14-game goalless drought for the right winger.
Benn put the visitors in front for the third time when the left winger wristed his eighth goal of the season past Pavelec at 13:46 of the frame.
Wheeler evened things, 3-3, when the puck deflected to him in the slot, only seconds after he got out of the penalty box at 14:53. He wristed his 11th of the season behind Lehtonen.
Benn scored his second of the game at 17:46 during the five-minute power play and Seguin did likewise at 18:49. Gonchar assisted on all three goals in the period, giving him four helpers in the game.
Noel replaced Pavelec with Al Montoya to start the third period, but the onslaught continued when Stars center Colton Sceviour scored his first goal of the season at 2:48.
From there, the only suspense was whether Wheeler would be the first Jet to post a hat-trick since the franchise relocated from Atlanta in May, 2011.
Wheeler didn't, although he came close in the last minute of play.
Jets center Olli Jokinen scored his eighth goal of the season in garbage time.
The victory improved the Stars' record to 15-11-5, while the Jets fell to 14-15-5. The Jets outshot the Stars 38-32.
NOTES: The MTS Centre, considered a difficult to play for opposing players during the Jets' first two seasons, has seemingly lost that status. The Jets have lost five in a row at home. ... The Stars are last in the league with the man advantage at 10.5 per cent and 21st a man down at 80 percent. The Jets are 28th on the power play and 10th on the penalty kill at 83.6 per cent. ... The season series was tied 1-1, with the Stars beating the Jets, 4-1, at MTS Centre on Oct. 11 and the Jets earning a 2-1 shootout victory at the American Airlines Centre less than three weeks later. ... It was the second game of relocated teams in less than 48 hours at the MTS Centre. On Thursday it was the former Atlanta Thrashers against the old Quebec Nordiques and this time the old Thrashers played the former Minnesota North Stars. ... Spotted in the crowd was an old Neal Broten No. 7 North Stars jersey. ... Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen was originally drafted by the Thrashers second overall in 2002. He played 204 games for the franchise, winning 94. ... The Jets are going to host either the Winter Classic or the Heritage Classic outdoor game in 2016. It's expected the team will wear a throwback World Hockey Association-inspired jersey. ... After a 14-game drought without a goal, Jets RW Blake Wheeler has scored four goals in the last five games.