The behemoth seven-game Western Canada road trip has finally come to a conclusion. The Winnipeg Jets left for Edmonton following a victory over Montreal back on March 17, and on Tuesday evening they will be back in their host city and able to sleep in their own beds 13 days later. Going 4-3-0 over the past seven games, the Jets finished the road trip with a commanding victory on Monday evening.
Facing off against Calgary for the third-straight game, the rubber match saw the Jets take out some frustration on the team that booted them from the postseason last summer. Following the team’s mold of bouncing back after a loss, Winnipeg put up five goals on Monday, including three-point nights from both Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers as the Jets hammered the Flames 5-1.
“It’s awesome to end the road trip on such a good note,” Scheifele said post-game. “It feels like we’ve been on the road all month. Those two games at home it didn’t even feel like we were at home because it was so quick and we had to leave right after the second game. The boys are definitely excited to get home, and it’s even better to end the road trip on a good win.”
Entering Monday’s matchup, the Jets sat tied with Edmonton for second place in the North Division, three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and nine points up on the host Flames. With just 20 games remaining after Monday’s contest, the Jets finally return home after 12 of their past 14 games came in enemy territory.
The Flames found the game’s opening goal just 2:24 in on an early-period power play. With noted penalty killer Andrew Copp in the penalty box for hooking, Johnny Gaudreau set up a tic-tac-toe passing play between he, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm, who finished the play off by slamming the puck past Connor Hellebuyck and into the Jets’ net.
Calgary held a 1-0 lead until the 3:41 mark of the frame, as a Dylan DeMelo point shot found its way past Jacob Markstrom and into the Flames’ net after redirecting off the skate of forward Nate Thompson. Ensuring the goal was not ‘kicked’ into the net, referee Eric Furlatt reviewed the play but ruled it a good hockey goal, which tied the game at ones.
Then just 1:54 after the Thompson marker, Winnipeg found the twine once again. With head coach Paul Maurice changing up the look of his top-two lines to feature a new trio of Mark Scheifele between Nikolaj Ehlers and Kyle Connor, the three aforementioned players teamed up for the Jets’ second goal.
Connor gave the puck to Ehlers, who carried it into the Flames’ zone, before finding Scheifele cross-ice, who absolutely hammered it into the yawning cage, giving Winnipeg a 2-1 lead with 1:47 to go in the frame.
That same combination struck once again in the early stages of the second period. Ehlers once again carried the puck into the offensive zone and faked a drop pass to Scheifele. He then proceeded all the way behind the Flames’ net and actually passed to Scheifele, who collected his own rebound and beat Markstrom for his 15th of the season just 3:31 into the frame.
“I don’t think I’ve done that ever before, to be honest,” Ehlers laughed. “I just thought I could separate myself a little bit from that defenceman, Scheif would have just been standing still with the puck, and it worked. After that, I tried to use my speed to go around him and Scheif was in a great position to get a pass.”
Just after Flames’ defenceman Rasmus Andersson saw his apparent goal waved off due to some goaltender interference from Milan Lucic, the Jets responded with another goal of their own, this time coming off the hot stick of Andrew Copp.
“Well the puck went from low to high and I tried to step out and Lucic just barrels over me and then squishes my face against the post,” Hellebuyck said of the disallowed goal. “Even if you’re pushed, you don’t shove me against the post. There’s a statute of limitations, so that’s what I saw.”
Collecting his sixth goal in as many games, Copp finished off yet another pretty passing play between Scheifele and Ehlers, who redirected his 11th of the year past Markstrom, giving Winnipeg a 4-1 lead through 40 minutes.
“Honestly, he’s been fantastic,” Scheifele said of his new linemate Ehlers. “He’s only gotten better and better. We know the skill that he possesses, the speed that he possesses, but he’s been so much more confident with the puck this year. He’s been doing it all. Good chips in the defensive zone, coming under pucks, good support all over the ice. It’s great to see him grow because he’s such a talented player. This year is just showing the kind of player he can be.”
The Flames opted to yank Markstrom (four career wins in 18 starts against Winnipeg) from the cage for the start of the third period in favour of David Rittich. That plan didn’t do much good for Calgary either, as the backup teddy made one stop, before giving up the fifth goal of the game to Winnipeg. This one came off the stick of Pierre-Luc Dubois. Paul Stastny and Blake Wheeler collected the helpers on the third period strike.
Hellebuyck stopped 29 of Calgary’s 30 shots on the night, while seeing his record improve to 17-9-2 with the win on Monday. His counterpart Jacob Markstrom allowed four goals on 23 Jets shots, before being pulled in favour of David Rittich in the third period. Rittich finished the night with five stops on six shots. With the win, Winnipeg’s record now sits at 22-12-2 through 36 games.
“It was a bounce-back game for everyone tonight,” Ehlers said. “It was a bounce-back game for the team. That’s what we do. That’s kind of our playoff mentality, to bounce back after a loss, we’ve been able to do that really well this season. You don’t want to lose games, but being able to go out and play the way we played tonight after a loss shows how special this group is.”
Improving to 18-0-0 on the season when scoring four-plus goals in a game, the Jets now head home for a two-game set with the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday and Friday. Winnipeg now trails Toronto by just one point in the standings. Wednesday’s game can be viewed live on Sportsnet at 6:30 PM central, while Friday’s 7:00 PM matchup will be available on TSN.