Following Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets head coach was asked about the first period play from Matthew Tkachuk that forced Jets forward and leading point-getter from the 2019-20 season Mark Scheifele out of the game early.
Maurice – who has never been one to mince words offered up the following:
“Oh, it was intentional,” he said matter-of-factly in his post-game media availability. “It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg. You can’t see it on the program feed, but you take the blueline feed (only accessible by NHL review staff and coaches) and you zoom in, he went after the back of his leg. He could have cut his Achilles. He could have ended the man’s career. It was an absolutely filthy, disgusting act.”
Although team captain Blake Wheeler admitted he didn’t see the exact play, he did challenge Tkachuk to a fight during the first TV timeout following Scheifele’s removal from the game. Tkachuk – who claimed the hit was a ‘freak accident’, accepted Wheeler’s invitation and handled himself well against the veteran.
“I’m backchecking on him and it’s such an accident,” Tkachuk said post-game. “I felt terrible from the result of it. I remember he was turning away. I just went in and my left skate had a little bit of the speed wobbles and I was moving probably too fast for myself and was going down and my leg just collided with it looked like it jammed him up. His body was going one way but the way I hit him his leg was going one way. I feel terrible.”
“He’s a top player in the NHL and someone I’ve come to know the last couple summers training with Gary Roberts,” Tkachuk added in a much different tone than that of coach Maurice. “He’s such a great guy. Just a top player in the league. It’s not good for the game when somebody like that isn’t in the game. It was very unfortunate and unlucky and such an accident and I feel terrible about it, but there’s really nothing that could’ve happened. He dumped it in and was going the other way and I was committed to my check and was kind of going down a little bit and had a little bit of the speed wobbles with the skate.”
Tkachuk, who has built up quite the reputation of reckless, careless play over the past few seasons, offered up his apology on what he claimed to be an accidental play.
“I heard something and looked back and felt terrible for him,” Tkachuk later said. “When you think about playoff hockey, everybody’s is finishing their checks. It started with the first shift. Because of something like that, everyone’s still got to finish their checks. It’s just such an unfortunate play and an unfortunate accident. I just don’t feel good about it, but I hope that he’s okay because he’s a top player in this league and he’s great for the game.”
To make matters worse for Paul Maurice and the Winnipeg Jets, star sniper Patrik Laine also went down midway through the third period with an apparent left hand injury, following a run-in with Flames defenceman Mark Giordano behind the Calgary net. After receiving medical attention on the bench, Laine also left he game. Calgary and Winnipeg will renew hostilities on Monday afternoon in Game 2 of the Qualifying Round best-of-five series. Puck drop is set for 1:30 PM central.