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Ehlers Leads Jets to Narrow Preseason Victory Over Flames

Photos by James Carey Lauder

Ehlers Leads Jets to Narrow Preseason Victory Over Flames

Following back-to-back road losses against former North Division rivals Edmonton and Vancouver, the Winnipeg Jets returned home to Canada Life Centre for the first game of a home-and-home series with the Calgary Flames. Featuring a roster similar to that of what may be expected come opening night on October 13, the Jets picked up two goals from Nikolaj Ehlers, en route to a 3-2 victory over their Albertan foes on Wednesday.

Winnipeg began the game with a steady diet of pucks on the Calgary goal. Already up 9-1 in the shot department, Josh Morrissey picked up his second goal of the preseason just 7:20 into the contest. Winger Kristian Vesalainen started the play by sacrificing his body to get the puck to linemate Adam Lowry. The big centreman found Morrissey, who wired home a low wrist shot, putting Winnipeg ahead 1-0 with 12:40 to go.

Then, not to be outdone, Nikolaj Ehlers reminded fans at Canada Life Centre that Morrissey isn’t the only player with a cannon of a shot. With 6:37 left in the opening frame, Ehlers collected a pass from Kyle Connor, walked into the Flames’ zone and wired a heavy slap shot top shelf, using defenceman Rasmus Andersson as a screen.

The Jets outshot the visitors by 14 shots in the opening frame, putting 17 pucks on Calgary backstop Dan Vladar, compared to the Flames’ three shots on Connor Hellebuyck.

Despite continuing the offensive pressure in the early stages of the middle stanza, Winnipeg succumbed the first and second goals of the frame, giving up back-to-back strikes in 1:46.

Offseason addition Blake Coleman brought out some rough stuff in the second period, finding himself penalized twice just over two minutes apart. Much like the first period, the Jets couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage. Coleman’s second penalty, a boarding minor, led to some retribution by way of an unsportsmanlike conduct minor charged to Jets’ defenceman Nathan Beaulieu.

With the attention turned to Coleman in the neutral zone, Calgary got the puck to Matthew Tkachuk, who drew three Jets to the corner of Winnipeg’s defensive zone, before finding Glenn Gawdin in front of the cage. He made no mistake and beat Connor Hellebuyck, putting the Flames on the board.

Calgary then saw some strong puck movement with Beaulieu in the box. Following a diving Neal Pionk block, an out-of-position Hellebuyck attempted to slide from side to side to stop a long-range shot, but Calgary managed to squeeze another into the Jets’ cage. A Dillon Dube slap pass was deflected by Andrew Mangiapane, giving the visitors their second goal in just 1:46.

The Jets remained busy in the frame, putting up 12 shots compared to Calgary’s eight, boosting their lead to 29-11 through 40 minutes.

It took until the team’s 35th shot on net midway through the third period to regain that lead. And once again, it was Nik Ehlers leading the way. Having been interfered with in his own end by big Nikita Zadorov, the speedy Dane got retribution with his second goal of the night, all while Zadorov looked on from the sin bin.

This time it was Paul Stastny, who found newcomer Nate Schmidt manning the point. He wound up as if to release a big slap shot, but turned and crossed the puck to Ehlers. Opting to keep the puck on the ice, Ehlers beat Vladar five-hole with 17 seconds remaining on the power play. Ehlers’ second marker of the game came 9:14 into the frame, giving Winnipeg a 3-2 lead.

Managing to kill off a late-period Pierre-Luc Dubois slashing call, the Jets then avoided disaster as a potential game-tying goal was called off due to a Matthew Tkachuk high stick. Video review determined the Flames forward played the puck above shoulder height prior to his team putting the puck past Hellebuyck with just 28.8 seconds left.

Escaping the potential game-tying goal, Winnipeg held on for the 3-2 home win, bringing their preseason record to an even 2-2-1 through five exhibition games. The Jets heavily outshot the Flames 40-18 on the night.

Winnipeg now travels to Alberta for the second half of the home-and-home series with the Flames. Concluding the six-game preseason against the Flames on Friday at the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Jets will then turn their collective focus to the start of the 2021-22 regular season.

Set to begin play out west on a three-game road trip through Anaheim, San Jose and Minnesota, the team will return to Winnipeg for the home opener at Canada Life Centre on Thursday, October 21. Friday’s game against Calgary can be viewed live on TSN. Puck drop is set for 8:00 PM central.

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com.

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