They weren’t able to rely on another four-goal performance from Andrew Copp, but the Winnipeg Jets still knocked off the Calgary Flames 3-2 Friday night as they moved into a tie with the Toronto Maple Leafs for top spot in the North Division.
The Jets had a two-goal lead late in the third period, but the Flames scored with under two minutes remaining to cut the lead in half. Calgary had several chances to tie the game on a powerplay late in regulation with the goalie pulled after Paul Stastny was assessed a tripping penalty just six seconds after the Flames goal.
“Oh yeah, that was a long, what was it – 1:52 I was in the box or something like that,” said Stastny. “Our PK (penalty kill) did a great job. They’re not really giving up much.
“A game like that, kinda special teams is the difference, and it showed there at the end.”
The Jets held the Flames to just 14 shots through the first two periods, but the Flames came on strong in the third, throwing 13 shots in Connor Hellebuyck’s direction, and there were a few frantic moments in the final minute.
“I think we have a lot of confidence in our goaltender first and foremost,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “And a lot of confidence in the guys on the ice. It’s never ideal to go down 6-on-4, but the four guys on the ice did an outstanding job.”
Two of the three Jets’ goals came on the man advantage, including a marker at 5-on-3 in the third period. The Jets have had three 5-on-3 power-plays this season and converted every time.
With a 27.3 per cent success rate, the Jets now have the top-rated power-play in the North Division, and fourth best in the entire NHL.
“I think Stas (Stastny) did a great job on faceoffs,” Wheeler said. “When you’re starting in the offensive zone – that’s huge. On the first goal, Mark (Scheifele) did a great job of kinda beating his guy off the wall and keeping that puck alive. So those little things are what give you an opportunity on the powerplay. I think we were a little bit more direct getting some pucks to the net, which has been lacking for our unit.”
Both of the Jets’ power-play units have had success as of late, creating a healthy competition in the dressing room.
“Healthy and respectful,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “They each have an identity and the second unit’s identity is more shot focused which makes them almost better coming off second, right.
“There’s an awful lot of good ribbing that goes on in the power-play meetings between the two, deciding which is the first unit and which is the second.”
The Jets had won just once in their eight previous trips to the Saddledome. They now have points in 13 of their last 18 games overall.
Hellebuyck made 25 saves and he’s now stopped 85 of the last 88 shots he faced with the Jets only surrendering three goals over their last three games.
READ MORE: Winnipeg Jets at the half
After a slow start on both sides of the puck, the Jets broke the scoreless tie eight seconds into their first power-play midway through the opening frame.
Kyle Connor got the ball rolling with his point shot deflecting off Stastny’s blade into Wheeler’s left skate before finding its way to the back of the net for the captain’s tenth of the year and the Jets’ 11th power-play goal this month.
The crossbar rang twice as Jets defenceman Logan Stanley nearly had his first NHL goal, ringing a one-timer off the bar at the tail end of the first. In the second period, Noah Hanifin almost had the Flames in business, beating Hellebuyck glove side but hit the iron, sending the puck high into the netting.
Five minutes into the second period, Tucker Poolman retreated into his own end before firing a quick pass to a streaking Connor at the Flames blue line. Jacob Markstrom didn’t bite on Connor’s fake slap shot forcing the team leader in goals to try and tuck it under Markstrom’s right pad. The Flames netminder couldn’t get a glove on the loose puck and Connor tapped in his own rebound for his 17th goal on the campaign.
The third period had a noticeably different pace right from puck drop as the Flames were still looking to ruin Hellebuyck’s perfect game through 40 minutes.
Dylan DeMelo was called for interference midway through the third giving the Flames their third chance with the man advantage.
Mikael Backlund took matters into his own hands, sending the puck to the net and a fortunate bounce off Milan Lucic put Calgary on the board.
Just minutes after giving the Flames a fighting chance to get back in the game, Lucic played the villain, dangerously sending Mason Appleton into the boards head first. Lucic tacked on a roughing penalty giving the Jets a four-minute powerplay.
The Jets took full advantage and Wheeler does what he does best, setting up Stastny in front of the net who made no mistake scoring the second power-play goal for the Jets.
The Flames wouldn’t go away, however, as Matthew Tkachuk deflected a shot from Elias Lindholm past the reigning Vezina Trophy winner with just over two minutes left in the third.
The Flames had the Jets right where they wanted them after Stastny took a tripping call, giving the Flames a 6-on-4 opportunity until the end of the third period. The Flames had their chances, but weren’t able to tuck in a third goal before the final buzzer.
Winnipeg picks up their 21st win of the season, improving their record to 21-11-2.
With his 16th win this year, Hellebuyck is tied for third among goalies with Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights.
You won’t have to wait long for more Winnipeg Jets action as they hit the ice Saturday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
Kelly Moore starts the pre-game coverage at 7:00 p.m. before handing the mic over to Jamie Thomas and Paul Edmonds at 9:00 p.m. on 680 CJOB.
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