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Jets Edge Flames 3-2, Win Third Straight Game

Sam Gagner's Winning Goal (Photo by Scott Stroh)

Jets Edge Flames 3-2, Win Third Straight Game

In his 1,002nd National Hockey League game, Sam Gagner went home the hero.

On Tuesday night at Canada Life Centre, Gagner tipped a shot by Ville Heinola that deflected over the pad of Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom with just five minutes and 40 seconds remaining in regulation time. That tip-in proved to be the winning goal as the Winnipeg Jets edged the Calgary Flames 3-2 in a thriller.

It was the banged-up Jets third straight victory and it gave Winnipeg a 24-13-1 record on the season. The Jets remained in second place in the Central Division.

But it also demonstrated, once again, that this is the best-coached team in the NHL. Playing without regulars Blake Wheeler, Mason Appleton, Nate Schmidt, Cole Perfetti and Nikolaj Ehlers and going with a lineup against Calgary that included 11 forwards and seven defensemen, the Jets checked the Flames at every turn and while Calgary outshot Winnipeg 35-25, most of those shots came from the perimeter and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stopped all but two of the few Flames’ big scoring chances.

Winnipeg opened the scoring at the 14:50 mark of the second period when defenseman Brenden Dillon (that’s correct) tipped a Dylan DeMelo shot past Markstrom. It was Dillon’s first goal of the season as Demelo and Mark Scheifele each picked up their ninth assists of the campaign.

Calgary tied it at the 19 minute mark of the second period when Nikita Zadorov beat Hellebuyck to score his fifth of the season, but the Jets got the lead back at the 10:22 mark of the third period when Josh Morrissey scored a beauty. The Jets Norris Trophy candidate took the puck, stickhandled between two Flames’ checkers, passed it to Kyle Connor in traffic and Connor passed it right back. Morrissey took the pass cleanly, moved to the slot all alone and beat Markstrom with a well-placed wrister inside the post. It was Morrissey’s seventh of the season and he now has 43 points this season, second among NHL D-men in scoring and tied for 18th overall. Connor (28th) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (24th) picked up the assists. Connor now has 40 points in his last 29 games and is 12th in scoring in the NHL with 44 points. He has scored at least one point in nine consecutive home games. Dubois, meanwhile, has a four-game points streak.

Calgary tied it again  just a minute and 26 seconds later as Michael Backlund beat Hellebuyck on a breakaway, but at 14:40, Gagner tipped in the eventual winner as Heinola, with his first point of the season, and Dylan Samberg drew the helpers.

Before the season started, new head coach Rick Bowness said he wanted his defensemen to “become more involved in the offence.” On Tuesday night, in a 3-2 victory, Jets D-men accounted for a goal and three assists.

“The focus has been our defence has to get more involved in the rush and forwards have to use them more,” said Bowness after Tuesday night’s win. “I thought we weren’t using them enough early in the game but when we started using them, we got some shots at the net and we got some goals from it. They don’t always go in for us like that, but they went in for us tonight.”

The Jets went zero-for-four on the power play while the Flames were zero-for-two. Winnipeg won 54 per cent of the face-offs while Calgary outhit the Jets 20-17.

Hellebuyck, Morrissey and Markstrom were the three stars, but the best stats-line of the night belonged to Heinola who had an assist and was plus-one with two shots, two hits and two blocked shots in just 15 minutes and 22 seconds of ice time.

“I think Markstrom is always challenged to play well when he faces Hellebuyck,” said Calgary head coach Darryl Sutter. “Hellebuyck was the difference in the game.”

The red-hot Jets play again on Friday night at Canada Life Centre as Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning come to town. Game time is 7 p.m.


Covered his first junior hockey game for the Sarnia Observer in 1968. Covered his first Jets game for the Winnipeg Free Press in 1980. Still thinks hockey is the bees knees.

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