By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Mark Scheifele likes how the Winnipeg Jets are finding their groove with an aggressive playing style.
Scheifele scored two of the Jets’ four unanswered second-period goals in a 5-1 NHL victory over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.
Three Winnipeg goals were scored in a span of 2:45 in the middle period, leading to the 13,847 fans at Canada Life Centre giving the players rousing cheers as the period ended.
“We’re just comfortable playing our game,” Scheifele said. “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.”
Pierre-Luc Dubois, Saku Maenalanen and Mason Appleton, with an empty-netter, also had goals for the Jets. Appleton added a pair of assists and Kyle Connor recorded three helpers.
Connor Hellebuyck made 22 saves for Winnipeg (8-3-1), which is on a seven-game point streak (6-0-1) and tops the NHL Central Division over the Stars.
The Jets’ 17 points through 12 games is the best start in franchise history.
Jets head coach Rick Bowness, who was behind the Dallas bench last season, likes the progress his new squad is making.
“I see a more confident team,” he said. “They understand if they play the right way and do these things that we keep preaching, we’re going to have success.”
Jason Robertson scored for Dallas (8-4-1), extending his goal-scoring streak to six games. He has seven goals and five assists during that span.
Scott Wedgewood stopped 28 of the 32 shots he faced for the Stars, who had their three-game win streak snapped.
Robertson opened the game’s scoring with his ninth goal of the season at 3:06 of the second off a Roope Hintz pass. Hintz is on a six-game point run with three goals and seven assists.
The Jets responded with their three quick goals.
“We had a really poor first period,” Dallas head coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought we kind of regrouped at the beginning of the second, scored the first goal, started to play and then you know just some poor decisions and some poor execution for five or six minutes and we lost all our momentum. The game was essentially over at that point.”
Scheifele’s first goal came at 3:27 when he put the puck into an open side of the net after a quick pass from Appleton.
Dubois made it 2-1 just 70 seconds later on a mistake by Wedgewood.
The goalie went behind the net to retrieve the puck, but couldn’t handle it. A Stars defender got a stick on it, but the puck went to the front of the net and Dubois flipped it in at 4:37.
Scheifele notched his eighth goal of the season at 6:12 to end the quick barrage.
Maenalanen finished the period’s scoring with his first goal of the season at 18:14 when he tipped in a Neal Pionk point shot.
“I think that was terrible from us,” Stars defenceman Esa Lindell said. “They played well, but I think that’s more on us.”
Dallas had the game’s first power play with 7:51 left in the third period, but couldn’t capitalize and took a penalty with five seconds remaining with the man advantage.
Appleton, who’s replacing an injured Nikolaj Ehlers on the top line, scored his first goal of the season into the empty net with 2:58 left.
“We love where our game is at right now, and to be in first place feels damn good,” Appleton said.
COMMISSIONER DROPS IN
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly met with Winnipeg media before the game and fielded questions on a wide range of topics, including the Jets’ attendance.
The Jets have only sold out one game this season, an Oct. 22 contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs with 15,325 fans. Winnipeg’s average through five games before the Dallas match was 14,151.
Bettman was reminded of a comment he made back in 2011 when the Atlanta Thrashers were bought and relocated to Winnipeg. At the time, he said “it isn’t going to work very well unless this building is sold out every night.”
“I don’t think there’s an attendance issue,” Bettman said. “We’re coming out of COVID. Around the edges.
“Some teams are seeing a little bit of softness. Maybe it’s people’s reluctance to still go to crowds. Maybe it’s the economy. … I believe this building can be and will be full again.”
Jets: Travel to Calgary to play the Flames on Saturday.
Stars: Host the San Jose Sharks on Friday.