April 21, 2019

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Jets snuff out Flames with 2-1 victory

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault (85) scores on Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith (41) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg on Saturday, March 16, 2019.</p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault (85) scores on Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith (41) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg on Saturday, March 16, 2019.

They haven't cleaned up all their problems. But the Winnipeg Jets took another big step to getting the house in order with a relatively neat and tidy 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames Saturday night at Bell MTS Place.

A commitment to defence against one of the highest-scoring teams in the league was the story of this one. Winnipeg held Calgary to just the lone tally — a far cry from the 10 goals the Flames torched the Jets for in winning two previous meetings.

"2-1 at home against the best team in the west is a (expletive) beautiful win," said a fired-up captain Blake Wheeler.

Winnipeg was coming off a hard-fought victory over Boston Thursday night, and followed that up with another solid effort against Calgary, which began the night leading both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference and had won three straight games.

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They haven't cleaned up all their problems. But the Winnipeg Jets took another big step to getting the house in order with a relatively neat and tidy 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames Saturday night at Bell MTS Place.

A commitment to defence against one of the highest-scoring teams in the league was the story of this one. Winnipeg held Calgary to just the lone tally — a far cry from the 10 goals the Flames torched the Jets for in winning two previous meetings.

"2-1 at home against the best team in the west is a (expletive) beautiful win," said a fired-up captain Blake Wheeler.

Winnipeg was coming off a hard-fought victory over Boston Thursday night, and followed that up with another solid effort against Calgary, which began the night leading both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference and had won three straight games. 

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) saves the shot by Calgary Flames' Mark Jankowski (77) during first period NHL action.</p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) saves the shot by Calgary Flames' Mark Jankowski (77) during first period NHL action.

"This is playoff-type hockey. That's what we want. We're not looking to score five, six goals and make it like an open game. We like the 2-1 games where we defend hard and bury them when we get a chance," said forward Mathieu Perreault, who scored the game-winner on a second period power-play.

The Jets improve to 42-25-4, while the Flames fall to 44-21-7.

Connor Hellebuyck stopped 27 shots for his 30th win of the season — including all 14 he faced in a busy third period as the Flames mounted a strong push.

"I think the two teams we’ve played against the last two games have been more playoff hockey and the way we want to develop our game for the playoffs. We felt good, we felt comfortable. Now it’s just a matter of keeping that grind going," said forward Nikolaj Ehlers.

To be fair to visitors, they were playing for a second time in as many nights, having disposed of the New York Rangers at home Friday, then flying into Winnipeg in the wee hours. They were also missing top centre Sean Monahan due to illness and forward Sam Bennett due to an undisclosed ailment.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Ben Chiarot (7) shot is saved by Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith (41) during first period NHL action.</p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Ben Chiarot (7) shot is saved by Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith (41) during first period NHL action.

Of course, the Jets are missing a couple key parts in defencemen Josh Morrissey and Dustin Byfuglien, which makes Saturday's attention to detail in their own end especially impressive. Only Buffalo and New Jersey have surrendered more goals than Winnipeg since the All-Star game, and a meeting with the red-hot Flames — who had won three straight and scored 20 goals in the process — could have gone south.

"The guys that are playing in their place are great players and they’re doing a heck of a job. It’s just that we’re talking about two of our best players, two of the best defencemen in the league. It’s never easy playing without them. You’re never going to replace them. We’re doing the best we can," said Wheeler.

The Jets blocked 17 shots on the night, which coach Paul Maurice said underscores an increase in awareness from his troops.

"I think it started with our penalty kill a few games ago. We started to get some real critical blocks. We’re now running eight forwards on our kill, so two-thirds of your group is in the mindset of shot blocking. And we’re starting to get better at it, for sure," said Maurice.

The Jets got some early luck in the first period, as the Flames hit the post on three different occasions. Two were by Johnny Gaudreau, the other by Mark Jankowski following a Jacob Trouba giveaway in his own end. 

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) makes the pass as Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith (41) looks on during second period NHL action.</p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) makes the pass as Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith (41) looks on during second period NHL action.

Winnipeg opened the scoring with just 8.7 seconds left in the first period, thanks to some great work by defenceman Ben Chiarot. He got the puck at the Calgary blue-line, then beat a Flames defender along the wall, opening up space and finding Mark Scheifele for the easy tap-in goal.

Scheifele's team-leading 34th of the year continues to add to his career high.

"You just have to have that attitude that it’s a playoff game from here on in. You’ve got to ramp yourself up; you’ve got to be ready for that grind. We’ve done that lately," Scheifele said of the mentality inside the room right now.

As for Chiarot, he's been rock-solid lately and now has a career-best 20 points. For a pending unrestricted free agent, the timing couldn't be better. Wheeler also had an assist on the Scheifele goal, giving him 87 points. With 11 games left, 100 is definitely in sight. 

Veteran centre Bryan Little got a mouthful of stick from Calgary's Mikael Backlund in the second period, drawing blood, The Jets were awarded a four-minute power play while Little went to the room for repairs.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault and his teammates celebrate Perreault's go ahead goal on Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith (41) during second period NHL action.</p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault and his teammates celebrate Perreault's go ahead goal on Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith (41) during second period NHL action.

But it was Calgary which immediately took advantage, as Jankowski finished off a beautiful tic-tac-toe play for a shorthanded goal just 15 seconds into the double-minor. 

Winnipeg regained the lead later on the power play, as Perreault jammed home a loose puck in front of MIke Smith for his 14th of the year, and third goal in the past four games. 

"Huge obviously. You want to score on your power play. We bounced back from that (shorthanded) goal really quick. That gave us some momentum back. We were able to not lose the momentum we had before for too long," said Ehlers. 

Calgary came with a push in the third, outshooting Winnipeg 9-1 through the first 10 minutes of the game, and 14-3 overall. They also had a couple power plays, including one in the final minutes which turned out to a 6-on-4 with Smith pulled for the extra attacker. 

This was the end of a stretch of eight straight games for the Jets against playoff teams. Winnipeg went 5-3-0, with close losses to San Jose and Washington and a no-doubter defeat to league-leading Tampa Bay. They beat Nashville, Columbus, Carolina, Boston and Calgary in that span. 

With three weeks — and 11 games — left in the regular-season, Maurice wasn't ready to declare his team fit for the post-season just yet. There's still more work to be done.

"We need the three weeks, we do. But we just played eight playoff teams and were 5-3. I’m not even going to qualify it, with those guys out, because you play playoff games without key pieces out of your lineup and you’ve got to win. So, 5-3. In one loss, we got beat by Tampa, but the San Jose and Washington losses were pretty darn well played," said Maurice.

The Jets begin a three-game road trip Monday night in Los Angeles.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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History

Updated on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at 10:12 PM CDT: Edited

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