Kyle Connor had two power play goals, Mark Scheifele scored a late game-tying marker, while Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 25 of 28 shots, but it wasn’t enough for a Jets victory on Monday. The visiting Calgary Flames took two of the three points presented on in the opening matchup of a four-game mini series with their North Division opponent by way of a 4-3 shootout victory at Bell MTS Place.
Connor opened the scoring for Winnipeg with a quick power play strike on the Jets’ first man advantage of the game. With just 45 seconds having ticked off the tripping minor to Calgary’s Noah Hanifin, Scheifele found Connor cross-ice, and the 24-year-old potted his fifth goal of the season on a perfectly-placed wrist shot over the left shoulder of Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom.
Connor and the Jets would then strike a second time on yet another man advantage following a tripping penalty to Flames’ captain Mark Giordano. Strong puck movement led to Josh Morrissey teeing up Connor for a one-timer strike from nearly the same place he scored from in the early going.
Connor’s second tally of the frame looked a lot like the reverse angle of the Jets’ typical power play scoring structure that fans had come to love prior to the trade that saw former right-winger Patrik Laine shipped to Columbus. It was Connor’s first career multi-power play goal game.
“You know what, we are just moving pucks and supporting each other really quick,” Connor said after the first period. “Even from the start, we had great zone time and great support. We kept doing the same things over and over and we got rewarded there with two.”
Going 2/2 on the man advantage helped Winnipeg to a three-shot lead through 20 minutes, going up 8-5 after the first period. The shot attempts, however, were tied at 14 heading into the second period.
The middle stanza was an interesting one, or at least the opening seven seconds of the frame, that is. Off the opening period faceoff, Calgary’s Elias Lindholm won the puck back to defenceman Chris Tanev. The first-year Flame carried the puck towards centre-ice and dumped the puck on net, along the ice. It eluded Connor Hellebuyck and found its way into the Jets’ net, halving the score 2-1 just seven seconds into the period.
“I don’t know what happened there, but we’ll take it,” Tanev laughed following the second period. “Obviously, it’s a better period for us and now only down one going into the third. We won more fifty-fifty pucks, got in on the forechecks and were more connected and one more up on those plays.”
Interestingly, Tanev’s dump-in was the only goal of the period, with each team having one unsuccessful power play opportunity. Winnipeg maintained its slim shot lead 14-13, while also pulling ahead 22-21 in shot attempts in the game.
“I don’t think they are going to be bragging about their first period,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said post-game. “So you kind of expected a bit of a push-back there. I don’t think the Tanev goal affected Connor (Hellebuyck) one bit.”
Calgary took over the third period, tilting the ice directly to the net of Connor Hellebuyck. First, Johnny Gaudreau tied the game with 13:06 to play on a strong redirection off a Juuso Valimaki setup play. The Flames continued an aggressive forecheck, while also applying heavy pressure on the offence. After two sensational Hellebuyck desperation saves and two posts, Calgary was able to claw back and take its first lead of the game.
Battling back from an early, two-goal deficit, Andrew Mangiapane put the Flames up 3-2 with 6:15 to play on a rebound effort for his first goal of the 2020-21 season.
However, for the second time this season, the Jets scored with six attackers and an empty net to tie the game. With Connor Hellebuyck on the bench for the extra attacker, the Jets were able to salvage a point after giving up a third period lead. Mark Scheifele was able to get a stick on a high Neal Pionk point shot, redirecting it past Markstrom and into the net, tying it at threes with 1:50 to play and sending the game to overtime.
Although plenty of opportunities presented themselves, the extra period solved nothing, so the two teams went to a shootout. It took eight shooters, but the Jets ultimate fell to the visitors on a Johnny Gaudreau five-hole winner. With Connor scoring the only goal of the shootout for Winnipeg, Johnny Hockey added to Sean Monahan’s first round goal, sealing the deal for Calgary and taking the first battle of the four-game mini series between the two opponents.
“We didn’t have anybody left on our bench that has scored a National Hockey League goal in a shootout, so Nikolaj would have been one of them,” coach Maurice said post-game, on why he did not select Ehlers as one of his team’s shooters. Ehlers, who has been a powerful forward for Winnipeg so far this season is 0/4 in his NHL shootout career.
Coming off a stretch of six games in nine nights, Winnipeg will now host the second of three straight home contests against Calgary from Bell MTS Place on Tuesday, before ending the club’s season-long, seven-game homestand on Thursday, also against the Flames, before travelling to Alberta for a Tuesday evening matchup with these same Flames. Both Tuesday’s and Thursday’s games can be viewed live on TSN at 7:00 PM central.