The Stars and Jets have played three classics during the 2021-22 season. The home team came out on top in all three games, each of them needed extra time (DAL 2-0-1). Dallas broke that streak on Friday night, skating away with a 4-3 overtime victory in Winnipeg.
Jason Robertson has been on a tear all season but found a new level in Winnipeg in his 100th NHL game. With Dallas being outplayed in the first period, Robertson found a loose puck to the side of the net, pulled off a plethora of moves, and slipped it past a baffled Connor Hellebuyck for the 1-0 Stars lead.
Late in the second period with the score tied at one, it was Robertson again converting on a beautiful pass from Thomas Harley on a 2 on 1 from the Dallas blue line. The goal was another display of elite skill and calm around the net for the 21-year-old.
“He’s pretty incredible, he’s going to have quite a career, that guy,” Stars goalie Braden Holtby said. “He’s one of those guys, and there’s very few of them. They get the puck and their heart rate just slows down. It’s a pretty rare talent, the poise he has. It’s fun to watch.”
After Winnipeg took their first lead in the third period, Robertson provided an excellent screen on a long-distance shot from Denis Gurianov that tied the game at three. Once again, we needed overtime to decide the outcome between these two Central Division rivalries.
In overtime, both teams had golden chances to end the game. After some back and forth, Winnipeg ripped a shot wide of the net, and the puck rimmed around the boards and out of the zone. Robertson, who had been on the ice for 90 seconds already, used every last bit of his energy to win the race to the loose puck and rip a wrister past the blocker of Hellebuyck for his first career hat-trick goal and the overtime winner.
“I’ll tell you how much he loves to score goals,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said as he recounted the play. “He was exhausted at the end of that shift and then he saw he had a breakaway opportunity and his eyes lit right up and he found a second wind. He was dead tired, but he saw that opportunity and elite athletes find that second energy and that second effort.”
Robertson played 19:47 in the game and was obviously noticeable on both ends of the ice. He boosted his career total to 97 points in 100 games, 9th all-time among active NHL players (passing Patrick Kane, Patrick Laine, Auton Matthews, and more). Friday was also the first time in NHL history that two players completed hat tricks that included overtime winners on the same night–Robertson and Victor Arvidsson (Los Angeles).
Holtby Excellent In Return
Friday was the first game for Braden Holtby since Feb 13. He had very little time to get adjusted, however, as Winnipeg pushed the pace early and often, finishing the night with 42 shots on goal. Holtby was strong early, keeping Dallas tied until Robertson converted on his first goal of the night.
“Braden was outstanding, especially all of those power plays they had,” Bowness said. “He had to be. We spent too much time in our zone, and Braden made some huge saves.”
The game was filled with special teams as the officials were buying into a lot of acting going on around the ice. In the end, the Jets ended 1 for 6 (scoring in the final second) and the Stars ended 0 for 3 with the extra man. A big part of that penalty kill success, goaltending.
“I think our PK did a really good job tonight and after you haven’t played in a while, it’s not bad to have some action off of the start,” Holtby said. “You get into the game and that sort of thing.”
This game should prove as a massive confidence boost for Holtby. The veteran goalie has been dealing with a minor injury while watching youngster Jake Oettinger take over the starting job. On top of that, Holtby has struggled in his last two starts, allowing three goals in a lopsided loss to Colorado and five goals against his former club.
“It’s a big game for us,” Holtby said. “You could tell they were a desperate team, and they got some big goals and big plays. At this point in the season, it doesn’t matter how you do it, you just got to keep going. Now it’s about forgetting about it and moving ahead to Minnesota.”
While the Stars may claim the Nashville Predators are their biggest rivals, I believe there is a new team threatening to take over that spot. The Stars and Jets have needed overtime in six of the last eight games. Each matchup has featured multiple lead changes, has brought out the best players on both sides, and always includes plenty of physical play. To put it simply, the games are incredibly entertaining.
The only thing left to accomplish for these two is an intense playoff series. The 2019 Stars playoff victory over Nashville along with the 2020 Winter Classic really pushed that rivalry into a new category. If these teams can continue to battle every night and eventually face each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, look out for some fireworks and a new top rivalry for Big D.
With the victory, Dallas moved into uncharted territory, finding themselves in the top wild card in the Western Conference. They now sit just two points behind Minnesota for the third seed in the division with a matinee matchup against the Wild coming on Sunday [Mar 6].
He Said It
“I can’t lie, I love breakaways, and I wanted a breakaway,” Robertson said. “I found whatever gear I had left.”
Sam’s Three Stars
- Third Star: Paul Stastny, WPG (2 goals)
- Second Star: Braden Holtby, DAL (39 saves on 42 shots)
- First Star: Jason Robertson, DAL (3 goals, overtime winner)
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!