By Jim Bender, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — After missing five games in COVID-19 protocol, Winnipeg Jets centre Mark Scheifele returned with a bang.
Scheifele scored the shootout winner to lift the Jets to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Dallas Stars on Tuesday in front of 13,174 at Canada Life Centre.
“I guess COVID only makes you stronger,” joked Scheifele, who was Winnipeg’s leading scorer last season.
“It was great. It was awesome to be back for the boys. I had a blast. It was huge to get the win and so fun to be back. It was my first game back in front of the Jets fans again, so it felt even better.”
Jets forward Kyle Connor also scored in the shootout, while Stars forward Joe Pavelski had the lone Dallas goal in the shootout.
Paul Stastny, Josh Morrissey and Pierre-Luc Dubois scored in regulation time for Winnipeg (5-2-2). Jamie Benn, Jason Robertson and Tyler Seguin were the goal scorers for the Stars (3-4-2).
Winnipeg goaltender Eric Comrie stopped 24 of 27 shots. His Dallas counterpart Braden Holtby made 33 saves on 37 shots.
Trailing 3-1 after two periods, Dallas tied the game with less than seven minutes remaining in the third period. Seguin tipped defenceman John Klingberg’s point shot by a screened Comrie.
The Stars scored a power-play goal at 8:43 of the third to pull within one. Robertson pounced on a loose puck in the crease that Comrie had failed to cover up for Robertson’s first of the season.
“We were down two goals going into the third period and we were able to tie it up, so I was very encouraged with the third period,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said.
“I always say when you lose in a shootout, you don’t lose the game, you lose in a skills contest. For 65 minutes, we played them even and they scored the extra goal in the shootout.
“But again, it’s 3-1 going into the third and you tie it up and we had some really good looks in the third and I was encouraged by that.”
Both Dubois and Morrisey scored power-play goals in the second period to give Winnipeg the 3-1 lead.
Although the Dubois goal went in off his skate, Bowness said he was not allowed to challenge whether or not there was a kicking motion, leaving it up to the league to decide.
“The second period, we obviously inflicted a lot of damage to ourselves – penalties and we got dominated on faceoffs,” Bowness said. “Then, we just kept icing the puck, so the second wasn’t very pretty.
“But we made up for it in the third. We responded really well. We had multiple choices in that third period.”
The Stars face the Flames in Calgary on Thursday in the second of three games in Canada.
“We know we can do better, we’ll take that point and move on to Calgary,” Bowness said.
A goal by Dallas forward Roope Hintz was waived off after Winnipeg’s challenge for offside was successful.
Benn’s goal at 16:16 of the first period knotted the score 1-1. Seguin dished to Benn alone in front of the net and the latter deked Comrie before putting the puck in the net.
Winnipeg opened the scoring midway through the opening period.
Stastny deflected a point shot from defenceman Nathan Beaulieu and Holtby inadvertently swept the puck into the net behind him.
Jets regular starting goaltender Connor Hellebuyck missed the game because his wife gave birth to a baby boy Tuesday morning. Mikhail Berdin was called up from the AHL Manitoba Moose to back up Comrie.
Winnipeg hosts the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday in the second of seven straight games at home.