The Calgary Flames had just lost to the lowly Chicago Blackhawks. They were playing the second night of a back-to-back and this one was on the road. They should have been ripe for the picking.
But as we’ve seen during the last month, when it really matters and when the game is won or lost in the trenches, the Winnipeg Jets find a way to lose.
On Wednesday night at Canada Life Centre, their old nemesis, that inability to score, reared it’s ugly head and despite 35 shots on goal, the Jets were beaten 3-1 by the Flames in a game Winnipeg desperately needed. The loss left Winnipeg with a record of 43-32-3 while Calgary improved to 37-27-15. If the two teams finish in a tie for the last playoff spot, Winnipeg has the tiebreaker.
So, of course, the Flames needed Wednesday night’s game even more than the Jets, but at least they reacted to the situation. as if they were the desperate squad.
Trailing the Jets by two points heading into Wednesday night’s game, the Flames could have found themselves four back of Winnipeg with only three games left. Instead, they came into Canada Life Centre, played a near-perfect road game and beat the Jets — a team that was on a dominant two-game winning streak — in a game that Winnipeg simply had to win.
Granted, the Jets still have a game in hand, but down the stretch, they have to play Nashville and San Jose in Winnipeg and then finish the season on the road against two teams caring up for the playoffs — Minnesota and Colorado. It’s not a walk in the park by any stretch. Calgary, meanwhile, plays in Vancouver this Saturday and finishes with Nashville and San Jose at home. The Flames clearly have an easier schedule.
On Wednesday, the Jets opened the scoring on the power-play as Kyle Connor ripped a one-timer past Calgary net minder Jacob Markstrom, but then Andrew Mangiapane bat Connor Hellebuyck ion the second period and Walker Duehr and Nikita Zadorov scored in the third as Calgary won the must-win game — a game that had the feel of the playoffs from the warmup to the final horn.
Both teams finished with 35 shots on goal. The Jets went one-for-five on th power-play while Calgary was zero-for-six. Calgary outhit the Jets 33-25, but Winnipeg won 54 per cent of the faceoffs. The Flames defence blocked 13 Jets shots and Winnipeg fired 11 wide. It’s amazing rot think what comes over Winnipeg. After scoring 12 goals in two games against Detroit and New Jersey, they could muster only one in a game that might have guaranteed them a playoff berth.
The Jets will get another chance to start a new winning streak on Saturday at 6 p.m. when they face the Nashville Predators. It’s another game the Jets must win.