REGINA – Bryan Little picked a big stage to get his first goal of the season.
Little scored at 3:04 of overtime to give the Winnipeg Jets a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night in the Heritage Classic outdoor game.
Little scored off a 2-on-1 with Kyle Connor, tucking the puck under goalie David Rittich at the corner of the net.
“It’s pretty cool,” Little said. “It was one of those games where I pretty much didn’t have any chances. Then you get a 2-on-1 like that in overtime. I’ll admit I really didn’t do too much. I just went to the net and put my stick on the ice and Kyle made a great pass. But it was definitely a great feeling.”
Little missed the first nine games of this season with a concussion. The longest-serving Jet in his 13th NHL season wasn’t able to play in the 2016 Heritage Classic at Winnipeg’s IG Field because of a knee injury.
“It was definitely frustrating last time watching from the sidelines and not getting to experience it,” Little said. “When I heard we were playing outside I had this circled on the calendar. Definitely lived up to everything.”
Josh Morrissey also scored and Connor Hellebuyck stopped 29 shots to help Winnipeg win Canada’s first outdoor game in a non-NHL city.
Elias Lindholm scored for Calgary and Rittich had 43 saves in his first outdoor start.
The NHL’s 28th outdoor game since 2003 took place at the 33,350-seat Mosaic Stadium, which was built in 2017 to be the new home of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, and was sold out and liberally sprinkled with Flames red, Jets blue and Roughrider green.
“As soon as we walked out of the tunnel, the crowd was electric,” Morrissey said. “It was completely full and as a player, it was just an awesome time and I think the city and the province really embraced it.”
Wind gusts between 17 and 27 miles per hour put wind-chill at around 14 degrees at puck drop. Snowflakes began dusting the Stadium a few hours prior to the game and intensified after the opening faceoff. As snow accumulated between scrapes, puck handling, shooting and passing became laborious.
“It feels right,” Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk said. “It feels like that’s how hockey should be and how legends of the past grew up playing. You hear all the greats talk about growing up and playing on the outdoor rink. It’s cool to play in that environment where it’s snowing, it’s causing the ice to be slower, you’re falling, you’re losing the puck, it bounces all over the place.”
There were plenty of scoring chances as each team had 26 shots on goal through the first 40 minutes.
With Flames centre Sean Monahan serving a tripping penalty, the Jets couldn’t score on a 4-on-3 advantage in overtime.
Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler put the puck off the crossbar with seconds remaining in the penalty.
Morrissey pulled the Jets even with 4:11 left in regulation with a power-play goal. With Flames captain Mark Giordano serving a hooking penalty, Patrick Laine fed the Jets’ defender from behind the net. Morrissey threaded a shot through traffic to the top corner over Rittich’s glove.
It was Winnipeg’s first goal in an outdoor game. The Jets were shut out 3-0 at Winnipeg’s IG Field by Edmonton in 2016.
After a scoreless first period, Lindholm’s power-play goal with 5:13 of the second was his team-leading seventh goal of the season. Johnny Gaudreau, on Hellebuyck’s right, tapped the puck over to Lindholm to shovel it past the Winnipeg goalie.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice challenged the goal believing Matthew Tkachuk raised his stick above his shoulders to knock down the puck and and keep it in the offensive zone. However, Maurice was denied, which resulted in a Jets minor penalty for the failed challenge.
Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry cross-checked Flames defenceman Oliver Kylington into the boards to end the period, which put the Flames on the power play to start the third.
NOTES: Winnipeg finished 1 for 5 on the power play, while Calgary was 0 for 3. … The outdoor game was Calgary’s first of five road games over eight days. … Jets C Mason Appleton was a scratch, having broken a bone in his foot throwing the football with his teammates at Mosaic prior to Friday’s skate. … Flames D Travis Hamonic played his 600th NHL game.
Flames: At Carolina on Tuesday night.
Jets: At Anaheim on Tuesday night.