This could’ve been a completely demoralizing home stand for the Winnipeg Jets.
With three losses in four games, it’s still highly disappointing given their plight in the Western Conference, yet they were able to salvage at least one win before jetting out onto the road for four games. And they can thank an 18-year-old rookie scoring sensation for giving them a critical win over the struggling Dallas Stars on Tuesday.
Patrik Laine recorded the hat trick, his second goal of the game breaking a 2-2 deadlock late in the third period.
The Stars fought back to tie the game in the second period, before Laine, the second overall pick last June, did his thing with a pair of goals in the final 5:07 of regulation in a 5-2 Winnipeg win.
The winning goal? That’s an insane display of quick hands, as he stole the puck away from Dan Hamhuis and then, seemingly in one motion, fires a quick wrist shot over the left shoulder of Antti Niemi.
“We need a guy like that to step up and that’s something we’ve missed here in the past,” Blake Wheeler told the Winnipeg Sun. “Without a guy like that in the room, it’s typically a 2-2 game heading into overtime. That was pretty special.”
Per Sportsnet: Laine is the first NHL rookie with three hat tricks in a season since Teemu Selanne and Eric Lindros in 1992-1993. (Selanne, of course, famously achieved that feat while playing in Winnipeg.)
The Jets had lost four straight. Their playoff hopes are still bleak, improving only slightly following their win over the Stars. They’re only four points back of L.A. for the final wild card spot. The loss is another devastating one for Dallas, which is six points back of the Kings and facing an increasingly grim reality heading into the trade deadline.
Laine and Auston Matthews, meanwhile, continue to go toe-to-toe in the rookie goal scoring race.
Matthews scored twice versus the Islanders, bringing his total to 27 goals (and 46 points). Laine, with his hat trick, is up to 26 goals and 47 points.