Free hockey may have been expected for fans of the Winnipeg Jets in their fourth game of the season against the Dallas Stars, but that wouldn’t make the end result any easier to swallow.
Jason Robertson bookended the scoring in the Central Division matchup and completed his first career hat-trick in overtime — his second extra-time winner against Winnipeg this season — as the Stars beat the Jets 4-3.
It was the fifth straight time the two clubs needed extra time in a game, with the Stars winning in overtime in each of their last three consecutive matchups.
“It’s frustrating,” said Jets forward Adam Lowry. “I thought we played a pretty solid game, had a lot of chances, and obviously, we liked this one more than we liked the two in Dallas. So, it’s frustrating, but you get a point, and you got to re-group. Now we got to get ready for New York.”
With the loss, the Jets (24-21-10) earned a single point, but lose even more ground in the Western Conference wild card race as the Stars (31-20-3) jousted with the Vegas Golden Knights for the final playoff position Friday night.
The Jets had six power play opportunities in the first 40 minutes, but could only muster a single goal with the man advantage.
Despite the magnitude of the game, the Jets didn’t appear to be playing with any sense of desperation until the third period when they found another gear.
“I thought we played real hard,” said head coach Dave Lowry. “I thought we deserved better. Did a really good job, just look at the way that we came out at the start of the third period. We were on the puck. We did what we wanted to do. We did what we talked about and we created lots of opportunity.”
Paul Stastny’s second goal of the game with around seven minutes left in the third period gave the Jets their first lead of the night, but Denis Gurianov tied it with about four minutes left, before Robertson won it in the extra period.
Gurianov also scored the third period equalizer the last time they met.
Nikolaj Ehlers returned to the lineup for Winnipeg after missing more than six weeks and 19 games with a knee injury. Ehlers recorded one assist and had six shots on goal in a little over 16 minutes of ice time.
“If we’re gonna lose, I’d rather lose like this,” said Stastny. “Then lose where two weeks ago we were getting outshot two to one. And we found a way to get a point.
“I think having Ehlers back in the lineup kinda makes us a whole different team. We can kinda roll four lines.”
The Jets have allowed three or more goals in 10 straight games now.
Robertson opened the affair when he took advantage of a pass that deflected off Mark Scheifele’s stick, found himself alone in front of Connor Hellebuyck and unleashed a flurry of dekes in tight before tucking it around the left leg of the Jets goaltender.
Joe Pavelski notched his 900th career NHL point on the game’s opening goal.
The Stars withstood three power-plays from the Jets in the first period, and two bona-fide chances from Winnipeg while Dallas was on a power-play of their own.
The Jets were able to build some momentum early in the second period, capped off by Stastny scoring with just a second left on another Winnipeg power-play to even the score.
With 50 seconds left in the frame, Robertson delivered with his second of the game to put the Stars up by a goal headed into the break.
The Jets started the third period much the same as the second, and Kyle Connor finished off a dominant opening shift by the Jets’ second line by batting in his team-leading 33rd goal of the year, tying the game.
Stastny would add his second of the game off a slick feed from Blake Wheeler to give the Jets their first lead of the game.
But three minutes later, Gurianov’s point shot would find a way past Hellebuyck to tie the game with less than four minutes remaining.
Robertson scored on a breakaway with 30 seconds left in OT to give the Stars the extra point.
Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey logged a career-high 31:47.
Hellebuyck made 30 saves between the pipes while Braden Holtby had a solid game for Dallas, making 39 saves.
Friday’s game was the fourth and final meeting of the regular season between the two teams, with the Stars taking the season series 3-1.
The Stars were missing two of their top players, forward Tyler Seguin and defenceman Miro Heiskanen, who were both battling non-COVID-related illnesses.
The Jets played the second and third periods with just five defencemen after Nathan Beaulieu left the game with a lower-body injury late in the first and did not return.
“I do not have any answers,” said the head coach. “I know that he’ll be looked at here tonight and probably tomorrow.”
Dallas has the day off tomorrow before continuing their Central Division road trip Sunday in the “state of hockey,” facing the Minnesota Wild.
The Jets continue a four-game home stand at Canada Life Centre on Sunday against the New York Rangers.
Pre-game coverage on 680 CJOB begins at 4 p.m. with Kelly Moore, and puck drop is scheduled for just after 6 p.m.