Laine leads Jets to 4-3 OT win over Flames

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Patrik Laine said earlier this week that despite a seemingly rocky off-season, one overshadowed by a public trade request from his agent, he was comfortable being a member of the Winnipeg Jets.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/01/2021 (685 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Patrik Laine said earlier this week that despite a seemingly rocky off-season, one overshadowed by a public trade request from his agent, he was comfortable being a member of the Winnipeg Jets.

On Thursday, he walked the walk. And even did a little bare-knuckle dancing.

The Finnish sniper scored twice, added an assist and fell just short of adding a five-minute major to his memorable night. Laine looked no worse for wear, however, following a 4-3 overtime victory against the Calgary Flames in the season-opener at Bell MTS Place.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets Blake Wheeler (centre), Patrik Laine, and Paul Stastny celebrate their third goal against the Calgary Flames at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg on Thursday.

He even delivered one of his signature sound bites after the game.

“I was pissed off because that would have been a Gordie Howe hat trick,” Laine said. “That one time when I drop my gloves I get a two-minute penalty so that’s kind of embarrassing. I’m not a guy who likes to fight much. I’d rather stay on the ice and help the team that way.”

Though Laine may not have earned his first fighting major in 306 NHL games, he did deliver the Flames a knockout punch. The 22-year-old scored 1:18 into the 3-on-3 extra period, ripping a shot past Jacob Markstrom to secure an important two points in what will be a competitive Canadian Division.

The Jets are now a perfect 1-0 to start a 56-game truncated campaign owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Flames, who also opened their season Thursday, fall to 0-0-1.

Early on, the Jets displayed the kind of rust you might expect for a team that hasn’t played a competitive hockey game since August, even if they claimed to be ready. The Flames definitely were.

Calgary Flames' Matthew Tkachuk tips the puck past Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck as Tucker Poolman defends during the season-opening game's first period in Winnipeg, Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Calgary out played and, even more impressively, out-battled the Jets in all areas of the ice, taking a 3-1 first-period lead.

The Flames opened the scoring 4:28 into the game with a nice deflection from the NHL’s resident pest, Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk, the culprit who injured Mark Schefiele three shifts into their summer playoff series, redirected a shot from Rasmus Andersson just enough to trick Connor Hellebuyck as he was sliding across the crease towards the left post.

It looked to only get worse from there, as the Flames kept up the pressure in the offensive end. A series of nice passes that touched at least four different Flames sticks led to Andersson walking in alone before beating Hellebuyck. Just as the net seemed clear, Jets defenceman Derek Forbort did his best goalie impression, saving what should have been a sure goal for the visitors.

That led to Kyle Connor retrieving the puck and firing a seam pass to Laine at the Flames’ blue line. Laine made no mistake on the breakaway, firing a shot high glove on Markstrom to even the game at 1-1.

“I’m probably his biggest (fan)… I’ve always loved his game,” Paul Stastny said about Laine. “That was a big goal because they came out at us hard the first period.”

Calgary Flames' Milan Lucic gets checked by Winnipeg Jets' Neal Pionk as Patrik Laine hunts the puck during the second period. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Calgary broke the tie just minutes later with a power-play marker from Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau benefitted from being on the receiving end of a nifty pass from Elias Lindholm that seemed to daze Hellebuyck, who struggled to regroup as the puck sailed past his sprawling body.

Lindholm made it 3-1 shortly after, taking full advantage of a defensive mixup by the Jets by coverting a one-timer high blocker side.

The Jets certainly looked more composed in the second period.

“(Head coach) Paul Maurice came in and gave a good speech where it was just, ‘Relax.’ Sometimes when you’re thinking too much, your feet are in sand and you’re just looking around too much,” Stastny said. “Everyone is hoping for things to happen. First game of the season always kind of happens like that.”

Scheifele scored just 34 seconds into the middle frame. Nikolaj Ehlers, whose status for the game was in doubt after missing practice Wednesday and then Thursday’s morning skate because of COVID Protocol Related Absence, dived to save a puck before getting it back and shooting on net. Scheifele followed up the play, depositing the rebound to cut the lead to 3-2.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS A fight breaks out after the Calgary Flames Noah Hanifin cross-checked Winnipeg's Kyle Connor from behind, drawing a penalty on the play.

Ehlers would find Scheifele wide open in the high slot on their next shift but Markstrom swallowed up the puck. He would have little chance, though, minutes later with the Jets on a 5-on-3 for 44 seconds.

With Sam Bennett serving a too many men penalty and Lindholm in the box for hooking, the Jets put out five forwards for the two-man advantage. Blake Wheeler dished a pass to Laine, who connected with Connor for a one-timer goal, making 3-3.

Tempers flared with seconds remaining in the period after Connor was cross-checked from behind by Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin, leaving his nose cut and blood streaming down his face. That sparked Laine to defend his teammate, eventually leading to the Finnish sniper swapping punches with Tkachuk. Both were given offsetting roughing penalties and Hanifin was assessed two minutes for cross checking.

A scoreless third period would set Laine up for his late-game heroics.

“He stood up for his teammate. It fires the guys up,” Ehlers said. “Patty’s a big boy, and he went in there today and showed that.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine shows bloodied teeth after a dust-up with Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk.

The Jets have three days before starting a three-game road trip Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, followed by a pair of tilts with the Ottawa Senators.

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine taking the shot that would prove to be the game-winning goal in overtime as Calgary Flames' Mark Giordano looks on.
Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine celebrates his game-winning overtime goal on Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom with teammate Neal Pionk, Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

History

Updated on Thursday, January 14, 2021 11:41 PM CST: Adds photos.

Updated on Thursday, January 14, 2021 11:59 PM CST: Updates to final version.

Updated on Friday, January 15, 2021 12:03 AM CST: Fixes typo in photo caption.

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