By Stephen Hunt, The Sports Xchange
DALLAS — Despite being down six forwards, the Dallas Stars got two assists from rookie Devin Shore, another helper from Justin Dowling in his NHL debut and 28 saves from Antti Niemi in a 3-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday at American Airlines Center.
The Stars (3-2-1) — who were without Cody Eakin (knee), Ales Hemsky (groin), Jiri Hudler (flu), Mattias Janmark (knee), Patrick Sharp (concussion symptoms) and Jason Spezza (undisclosed) — got goals from Brett Ritchie, Patrick Eaves and Tyler Seguin.
“The guys played a heck of a game,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “Battle was good. Our compete was good. We got to the net. We generated the type of opportunities that most nights you’ll get three or four.”
Joel Armia and Mark Scheifele scored for Winnipeg (2-4-0).
“I liked the offense tonight, more than any other night that we’ve played. I liked our overall 60-minute game,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “Our second period might have been our best period of the game, and we’ve struggled with that. I thought we worked our tails off, I thought we were hard forechecking, hard driving. We just play that game for 82 (games), we take it all day long and take those chances.”
Dallas struck first, with 5:23 remaining in the first period, when Ritchie scored off the rush from the slot. After receiving a pass from Curtis McKenzie, Ritchie sent a wrist shot through the five-hole of Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson, who stopped 23 of 26 shots, for his second goal of the season.
Seconds earlier, Niemi had denied Shawn Matthias at the near post, leading to the start of the Dallas rush. Niemi had also turned away Matthias earlier in the period.
Midway through the first period, Jets forward Drew Stafford sustained an upper-body injury and did not return.
The Stars doubled their lead 5:02 into the second period when Eaves scored a power-play goal from the high slot. Eaves one-timed a slap shot into the far side of the Winnipeg net.
Maurice challenged, asserting Hutchinson had been interfered with. Stars defenseman John Klingberg had pushed Josh Morrissey on top of Hutchinson; but, after a short review, the goal stood.
“That’s one that definitely puzzles me,” Hutchinson said. “It wasn’t like our guy laid on top to try and milk it. He was doing what he could to try and get up, but it happened so fast. Personally, I don’t know why it wasn’t goalie interference. I thought that was right within the rules, but unfortunately we didn’t get that call.”
Dallas was on the power play after Toby Enstrom tripped Gemel Smith, playing his second NHL game, 4:15 into the middle frame. It was Eaves’ 100th career goal.
“It’s pretty cool,” Eaves said. “I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of good players, and it’s really nice.”
Dowling was credited with the secondary assist on the Eaves tally.
“Like everyone says, it’s a dream come true,” Dowling said of his debut. “I’m glad I was finally able to do it, and finally playing well enough down there (in the minors) to get the call-up and roll with the opportunity that I have here and then play a good game.”
In the waning seconds of the second period, Dallas captain Jamie Benn capitalized on a turnover near the Jets blue line to create a breakaway. However, Hutchinson denied Benn with a pad save.
Winnipeg made it 2-1 heading into the second intermission when Armia capitalized on a Niemi miscue with five seconds remaining in the period. Niemi mishit an attempt to clear the puck off the boards behind the Dallas goal and Armia collected the puck and skated around the far post before slipping the puck over the line.
“That whole line (Armia, Lowry, Matthias) going back two games has been really, really strong in the offensive zone,” Maurice said. “Joel (Armia) was moving his feet with the puck; and, when he does that, boy, he creates some things.”
Seguin’s third goal of the season, 7:27 into the final period, gave Dallas some breathing room and its first two-goal lead of the evening. Seguin beat Hutchinson top shelf on his short side with a well-placed wrist shot from the right circle to make it 3-1.
Winnipeg nearly tied it with 1:05 remaining while shorthanded, but Dustin Byfluglien’s wrist shot off the rush from the left circle instead found the left goal post.
Hutchinson headed to the bench one second later and Scheifele made it a one-goal game when he scored off a rebound with 10 seconds remaining. However, the Jets couldn’t find the equalizer to force overtime.