On Tuesday evening, the Winnipeg Jets took on the Calgary Flames for the fourth-straight matchup. This time, however, it was held on the road at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Alberta. After hosting the first four matchups of the season with Calgary at Bell MTS Place, the remaining five battles between the NHL’s newly-formed North Division (including Tuesday’s game) will occur in Calgary.
Coming into the game with a 5-0-1 record against the Flames in their last six games played, Connor Hellebuyck and the Jets were looking to add to their 7-3-1 record through 11 games thus far. However, the home team had different plans. After alternating goals with Winnipeg, Calgary stole both points from the Jets, scoring a late-period power play marker on a phantom high-sticking minor, taking a 3-2 victory in the process.
Joining Winnipeg on Tuesday for the first time since the trade that sent Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic to Columbus was centreman Pierre-Luc Dubois. Starting the game alongside Trevor Lewis and Kyle Connor, Dubois saw himself skate with a number of different linemates throughout the night. Although showing nothing too flashy or negligible, the newcomer did provide some spark at times with speed up the ice, however, he was involved in the turnover leading to Calgary’s first goal. After not dressing for a game since January 21, Dubois finished the night a -1 with one hit in 13:10 of ice time.
“For a guy who hasn’t played for three weeks, he’s looking pretty good out there for us,” Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers said between periods. “Like I said before, we are trying to talk to him as much as we can to get him up to speed and get him to his best as quick as possible. So he is really doing good.”
Hellebuyck played well despite the loss, stopping 26 of 29 shots. However, his performance was outdone by Jacob Markstrom, who turned aside 25 of the 27 shots he faced in the game.
The first period really didn’t provide much action for either team. Despite it being the final of four-straight matchups for Winnipeg against the Flames, there were no fireworks on display – at least in the early-going. A scoreless opening 20 minutes was highlighted by unsuccessful power plays by each team, with Calgary driving most of the play. The Jets trailed 11-10 in shots, 23-15 in shot attempts and 73 percent to 27 percent in faceoff percentage after the first period.
After a rather tentative opening period, the goals came in bunches in the middle stanza. Winnipeg started things off with a rocket of a shot off the stick of Nikolaj Ehlers, who picked a corner over the glove hand of Jacob Markstrom from the top of the circle. The goal was Ehlers’ seventh of the season and came in the late stages of an early Sean Monahan hooking minor.
Just 2:08 after Ehlers’ opening strike, Andrew Mangiapane put the Flames on the board, collecting a loose puck off a strange bounce, corralling it and tucking it past the outstretched pad of Connor Hellebuyck, tying the game at ones 5:31 into the period. Later in the frame, Winkler product Byron Froese gave Calgary a lead, perfectly redirecting a Juuso Valimaki point shot into the Jets’ net, for his first goal of the season.
Much like Calgary’s quick response to Ehlers’ game-opener, Ehlers responded with his second goal of the game, putting the finishing touches on a strong rush up ice. Mark Scheifele and Andrew Copp earned the helpers on the 2-2 marker. The game remained tied trough 40 minutes of play, with Calgary staying ahead 36-29 in shot attempts, but the Jets taking over the overall shots on goal statistic, heading into the third up 19-18.
“I feel good, and I am playing with great players every single night that make it a lot easier,” Ehlers said of his game prior to heading out for the third period of play. “We are rolling, we are skating hard and playing the way we want to and that gives us credit, so we are happy with the way we are playing.”
The teams back-and-forth throughout the first 17 minutes of the third period, with the officials letting play continue, despite the minor infraction here or there. However, late in the game, referee Kevin Pollock called Jets defender Nate Beaulieu on what appeared (under super slo-mo cameras) to be a phantom high-stick on speedy Flames’ forward Johnny Gaudreau.
A nifty sell-job by No. 13 in red gave Calgary its second power play of the game with 2:35 left to play. It took just 53 seconds for the home team to find the twine, as Elias Lindholm’s fourth goal of the season proved to be the winner. The low point shot appeared to catch a piece of Josh Morrissey’s skate, leaving Hellebuyck hung out to dry, with the wobbly, off-speed shot trickling through the goaltender’s five-hole and into the net behind.
The Jets attempted to string together a late game-tying goal with their starting netminder on the bench for the extra attacker for the third time, but were unable to get much going in the offensive zone. Markstrom and the Flames held on the remaining 1:42, snatching both points away from the Jets, and improving their record to 6-5-1 on the season, while watching their North Division opponent fall to 7-4-1.
After not having played in a building other than Bell MTS Place for the past 19 days, Winnipeg will return right back to its home on Thursday, where the team will host the visiting Ottawa Senators in the first of two-straight games on Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon. But it is after the series with Ottawa that the Jets begin a stretch of 22 games, with 16 being road contests. Thursday’s 7:00 PM matchup can be viewed live on TSN, while Saturday’s 2:00 PM start will be shown on Sportsnet.