Stars-Jets winner will break tie between teams

February 14, 2017

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- There won't be any chocolate hearts, long-stemmed roses or frilly lingerie exchanged on the ice Tuesday night at the MTS Centre.

If the Winnipeg Jets or Dallas Stars have any designs on making the playoffs, they're going to have to stomp over each other to get there.

And the miracle run for either might as well start now.

The Jets (25-29-4) are tied with the Stars (22-25-10) at 54 points, six points out of the second and last wild-card spot in the Western Conference. If they're looking farther up the standings, St. Louis sits in third in the Central Division with 63 points.

But that is a leap considered the play of late by both teams. The Jets are "riding" a four-game losing streak and have just four wins in their last 10 games. The Stars, meanwhile, have lost five of six and are 3-5-2 in their last 10.

"Our season is on the line," Jets veteran forward Mathieu Perreault told the Winnipeg Free Press. "We have to come out with energy. I don't know what's happening. We're going to have to find a way with the boys all together and figure ourselves out.

"When they score a couple goals and you're down 2-0, it seems it just takes the wind out of us on the bench. That can't happen this time of year. You've got to stay up. You've got to find a way to win games."

Even though Ondrej Pavelec was seen as a bit of a savior, winning four of eight games after his January recall before going down with a lower-body injury last week, the defensive side has been the Jets' biggest challenge. They have given up three or more goals in 15 consecutive games and 79 goals in 21 games since Dec. 29, the worst in the NHL.

It's not going to get any easier with Toby Enstrom on the shelf with a lower-body injury suffered in the first period of Saturday's loss to Tampa Bay.

One silver lining is that the Stars have defensive trouble of their own. For example, their goal differential in the third period is minus-30, worst in the NHL.

The Stars' specialty teams are also up and down. Case in point is the power play, which scored three times on Sunday to build a 3-0 lead by midway through the second period against Nashville, only to see the Predators tie the score and then get the winning goal short-handed with six minutes left in the game.

"That one really stings," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said in a media scrum afterward. "That was a tough one. That's a bad night for the power play.

"Sure, we had three power play goals, but to give up a short-handed one late ruins the night for the power play. That's on me."