The Winnipeg Jets have won a game. And in doing so, they clinched a playoff berth for the fourth-straight season. In earning road win No. 17 on the season, the Jets snapped their ugly seven-game losing streak in fashion by way of a 4-0 win over the Calgary Flames in the team’s final road contest of the season.
On Wednesday, the Jets and Flames met up for the ninth and final time during the abbreviated 2020-21 season. And much like that of the season series, the Jets took control of the game. And it really didn’t take long.
“It feels great,” Adam Lowry said post-game. “That’s the goal at the start of the year is playoffs. It’s nice to have that behind us. It was a long couple of weeks. There were some frustrating moments. But the last couple of games we’ve played a lot better and we’re looking to build off that.”
Winnipeg entered the game on a seven-game losing streak, to which all seven losses came in regulation. But in owning a 5-2-1 record so far against the Flames this season, the Jets were certainly looking to finish off the season series on a high note. With a win, Winnipeg knew it would clinch a playoff berth for the fourth-straight year, and shake itself from its horrible skid.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice made a number of lineup changes ahead of the game, with youngster Ville Heinola coming in on the blueline for Logan Stanley, while Jansen Harkins drew back in on the offence for Kristian Vesalainen. And after getting the night off on Monday, Connor Hellebuyck was given his league-leading 42nd start between the pipes for Winnipeg on Wednesday.
Adam Lowry and the Jets wasted little time getting on the board. Just 1:09 into the game, the big centreman collected a loose puck in his own zone and carried it up the ice on his own. He then calmly looked off his wingers and fired it past Jacob Markstrom low, far side. Lowry’s ninth of the season opened the scoring and served as the only goal of the period. The Jets and Flames each registered six shots on net in the opening frame.
With Heinola in the box for interfering Sean Monahan early on in the middle stanza, Lowry collected his fourth career shorthanded goal. Collecting a Dylan Demelo flip pass, Lowry broke towards the Flames’ net with Andrew Copp hot on his tail. Once again his opted to do it himself, going forehand, backhand, five-hole for his 10th tally of the season.
“He’s a great character guy in that locker room,” Hellebuyck said of Lowry’s game. “So for him to come out in his home town and put a couple in, we all get extra excited for him because he’s just a guy that works hard and battles and battles for us. He’s a big part of this team.”
The goal – coming just 21 seconds into the Flames’ power play – was also Winnipeg’s third shorthanded marker on the year. Officially, it came 5:33 into the period. Moments after Lowry’s second of the game, Matthew Tkachuk rattled a wrist shot off the Jets’ crossbar and safely out of play.
Just moments after a Blake Wheeler tripping call, the Jets’ captain collected the puck at the Winnipeg blueline and carried it up ice and drove hard to the Flames net. Much like that of Lowry, he went backhand and also beat Markstrom just over this right pad. The goal came with just 1:14 to go in the period. Feeding off of a spectacular goal-line play by Pionk, Wheeler’s speed and fresh legs helped generate the Jets’ third goal.
Winnipeg led 3-0 through 40 minutes, despite only putting up 12 shots on net. Calgary led the way with 16 shots after two periods of play.
Wheeler added another on a Jets power play shortly into the third period. Capitalizing on a miscue between two Flames checkers, Mark Scheifele dished the puck to Wheeler, who deked out Markstom once again and put the disc past him and into the net for his second goal of the game. The tally also marked Wheeler’s 800th career point and Scheifele’s 500th career point.
“It doesn’t mean anything, to be honest with you,” Wheeler said of the significance of 800 career points. “This night belongs to our team and the fact that we’re going back to the playoffs. That’s all I play for, especially this part of my career is just having opportunities to achieve the ultimate goal. So that’s what makes this night special… Mark gets the puck.”
Although giving up a late-game double minor to the Flames by way of a Josh Morrissey high stick on Milan Lucic, the Jets were able to kill off their fifth-straight penalty of the night, helping Connor Hellebuyck earn his 22nd win and third shutout of the season.
Hellebuyck stopped all 32 of Calgary’s shots on the night, while seeing his record improve to 22-16-3 with the victory on Wednesday. His counterpart Jacob Markstrom turned aside 15 of Winnipeg’s 19 shots, who saw his record fall to 18-19-2 on the season. The victory also marked Paul Maurice’s 300th win as a member of the Jets on Wednesday.
“He’s a goalie that has such great belief in his abilities and we have such great belief in his abilities,” Lowry said of his netminder. “We know it’s just a matter of time before he makes his return to that Vezina-calibre form that he seems to always play at. It’s nice to get the shutout. That’s something that, moving forward, we hope he keeps building on that. He’s our most important player, he gives us a chance to win every night. Really happy that he was able to stop them all tonight.”
With the win, Winnipeg’s record now sits at 28-21-3 through 52 games, giving the team 59 points and leapfrogging Montreal for third place in the North Division. In earning the win on Wednesday, the Jets finished their road portion of the season with a 17-10-1 record as the visitors.
“It was a good wake-up call for our team,” Wheeler said of the losing streak. “Our game slipped a little bit; we were still getting some wins and then, ultimately, those turned into losses and then probably halfway through this streak we started playing pretty good again and just weren’t getting the results. It’s really important for our team to get that good feeling back and hopefully we can snowball that into four good games to end the regular season and go into the playoffs with a lot of confidence.”
Now having completed their 28 road contests, the Jets head back home for the final four games of the season at Bell MTS Place. Facing off against Ottawa on Saturday, Winnipeg then hosts the Vancouver Canucks in a back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday, before finishing the season with a Friday night battle with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Saturday’s game is a 6:00 PM central start and can be viewed live on Sportsnet, while the three weekday matchups will feature 7:00 PM start times on TSN.