Flames down Jets 3-1 for crucial win in wild-card battle

If you wanted a game with a playoff-like atmosphere and a boatload of penalties, then Wednesday night’s clash between the Jets and Flames was right up your alley.

It was a contest that both teams needed in the standings, but it was the visitors who survived a disjointed special teams battle as Calgary emerged with a 3-1 win over Winnipeg to pull even with the Jets for the final playoff spot in the West.

Kyle Connor opened the scoring for the Jets, but the Flames scored three unanswered goals to earn a valuable two points. Calgary broke a one-all tie in the third as they scored twice in the final frame to seize the victory.

Power plays accounted for more than a third of the game. The Jets killed off all six of their penalties successfully, while also going 1-for-5 on the man advantage. But the special teams showdown got the Jets away from their game.

“We would have preferred to play more 5-on-5,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “You take six penalties in a game like that, and you’re shooting yourself in the foot. There’s no question about that.

“When you want to get your bench rolling, and play fast, and you keep taking penalties, you can’t get your game going. You can’t. So, there’s too many times, because of all the penalties, we were playing slow. And that’s not how we want to play.”

Both teams registered 35 shots on net. Despite being held to just one goal, the Jets had a ton of quality scoring chances, they just failed to convert.

Nate Schmidt had a pair of breakaways on the same shift but missed both times. Schmidt did find the net once, but unfortunately for him it was on his own goal as Walker Duehr’s game-winning tally went in off the stick of Schmidt.

“They scored on their chances and one goes off me,” said Schmidt. “And we get a chance and a couple of breakaways that we don’t score on. I think there wasn’t a lot of space on the ice, really for either team.”

Pierre-Luc Dubois recorded one assist for his 300th career NHL point. It also set a new career-high for Dubois for assists in a season, and tied his career-best with his 61st point.

The win gives the Flames the season series, but more importantly ties them with the Jets for the final playoff spot. The Jets still have a game in hand and also own the tiebreaker, but they’ll now have their work cut out for them in the final four games.

“Obviously disappointed,” said Dubois. “Like, I’m not going to stand here and say we’re happy and we’re thrilled. But we’re still in a good spot. We’re still on the inside, so we just got to look forward to the next couple games here.”

The Jets will play the Nashville Predators on Saturday who are just three points back of Winnipeg and they’ve also played one fewer contest.

The parade to the penalty box began early in the first period as both teams would get opportunities with the man advantage.

Calgary’s power play was up first as Dubois was called for boarding at the 1:44 mark but the Jets killed it off.

Just 13 seconds after Dubois stepped out of the box, Josh Morrissey accidentally knocked the puck out of play in his own end, earning him a delay of game penalty.

The Jets were five seconds away from the kill when Calgary’s Nick Ritchie received a cross-checking penalty. Winnipeg didn’t score but generated several decent scoring chances.

The parade to the penalty box continued at the 9:07 mark when Milan Lucic caught Saku Maenalanen with a high-stick that cut him, earning Lucic a double-minor.

Nothing much happened through the first two minutes but in the second half of the power play, Nikolaj Ehlers collected the puck on the half-wall and rifled a perfect seam pass to Connor, who one-timed it past Jacob Markstrom for his 31st of the season and the game’s opening goal.

As the horn sounded to close out the opening frame, Dylan DeMelo was called for tripping, giving Calgary a power play to start the second period.

Winnipeg wound up with the best chance though as Schmidt got in alone shorthanded but after trying to put a move on Markstrom, he missed the net with the shot and skated to the bench in frustration.

Calgary thought they tied the game at the 4:38 mark. After Maenalanen carelessly sent the puck to nobody, Ritchie caught up to it and skated in alone on Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets keeper made the initial stop but Nikita Zadorov buried the rebound.

Winnipeg challenged for goaltender interference and after a lengthy review, the goal was waved off. Ritchie hit Hellebuyck’s pad with his stick and his skate, and officials determined that Ritchie didn’t allow Hellebuyck to get set for the Zadorov shot.

Later in the period, Mark Scheifele and Dubois got in on a 2-on-1 with more help coming but Dubois was denied on the doorstep by Markstrom.

The save sparked an odd-man rush the other way and Andrew Mangiapane buried a nice feed from Mikael Backlund to tie the game at the 13:54 mark.

After the goal was scored, Dubois skated to the Calgary end and had something to say to Markstrom, sparking a skirmish that involved every skater on the ice. Replay showed that after the Dubois chance in front, Markstrom gave him a shot and Dubois retaliated with a slash to the goalie’s pads.

After all was said and done, Dubois was given a pair of minor penalties while Markstrom, Chris Tanev and Jonathan Huberdeau also received penalties, giving Winnipeg a power play, though they didn’t do anything with it.

Not long after than penalty ended, Calgary got a shot with the man advantage but the Jets managed to kill it off, which kicked off a long stretch of five-on-five play…just kidding, there was another penalty called 30 seconds later.

Trevor Lewis was called for roughing Dubois away from the play, but once again Winnipeg struggled to get set up in the Calgary end and the two minutes elapsed without much pressure on Markstrom.

If you can believe it, there were no more penalties called in the period. The two sides finally got to play at even strength for a while but neither team could find the back of the net, sending the pivotal game to the third period tied 1-1.

Less than two minutes into the third, another penalty, this time an obvious tripping penalty called on Vladislav Namestnikov.

The Jets killed it off but ten seconds later, Duehr tried to beat Hellebuyck on a wraparound, sending the puck in front of the net where it deflected off the stick of Schmidt and past Hellebuyck to give the Flames their first lead of the night.

Calgary got their sixth power play just over seven minutes into the third when Brenden Dillon was called for tripping, and once again the Jets got the kill.

Just past the midway point of the period, the Flames got a massive insurance marker when Zadorov joined an odd-man rush for Calgary and wired a perfect shot past Hellebuyck to make it 3-1.

Winnipeg’s best chance to cut into the lead came with just under two minutes left when Ehlers got free for a breakaway but he couldn’t finish it off. The Jets then pulled Hellebuyck for the extra attacker but couldn’t get anything going before the final buzzer.

Markstrom bounced back from a poor showing against Chicago with a 34 save performance while Hellebuyck was saddled with the loss, allowing three goals on 35 shots.

The two teams are now tied for 8th with 89 points but Winnipeg still controls their own destiny, holding a game in hand over the Flames and the tiebreaker so Calgary would need to finish with more points than the Jets to make the playoffs.

Nashville is still holding onto a sliver of hope and they will be the next opponent for the Jets Saturday night. Pregame coverage begins at 4 p.m. on 680 CJOB with the puck dropping just after 6 p.m.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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