Nikolaj Ehlers’ second goal of the game midway through the third period helped propel the Winnipeg Jets to a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames in the Jets’ final pre-season game at home.
The Danish winger beat Flames backup Dan Vladar 9:14 into the third period and it held up for the winner in a game that featured plenty of penalties and after-the-whistle shenanigans.
The Flames appeared to tie the game up with the goalie pulled with just 29 seconds remaining, but the goal was eventually called off for a high stick following a video review.
“It was tough to tell until the blue line camera came on,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “But if that happens with three minutes left I got to challenge.
“I don’t think I would have called it on the program feed – what you see on TV. It would have been tight, and then I’d have been some sour after having seen it. I mean, it was a high stick on the blue line camera.”
The final score actually flattered the Flames. The Jets outshot Calgary in all three periods and finished with a huge advantage in shots 40-18. The shot clock had the Jets up 17-3 after just 20 minutes.
“They had a tough first period,” Maurice said. “They weren’t going to have two or three like that. We weren’t going to outshoot them 51-9, so they were going to pushback a little bit. They got a little bit quicker. I think it took us a little while to get that game back.
“I’m not putting too much weight into an exhibition game. I liked the way we played. I really like our start.”
Josh Morrissey scored the Jets only other goal and had a number of other dangerous opportunities throughout the game, finishing with four shots on goal.
“It was nice tonight to play more of an NHL lineup with the heat turned up,” said Morrissey. “Obviously it’s nice to see you kinda get some little rewards and whatnot in the pre-season.
“It’s nice to see it going in.”
Andrew Copp had a chance to seal the game with an empty netter with less than 20 seconds left, but opted to pass to Ehlers who was one goal shy of the hat trick. Ehlers had just lost his stick and there were a few frantic moments until the final buzzer sounded.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like that,” Ehlers said. “But obviously I appreciate the effort. I would have obviously also liked them to put that in the net, but it just shows what kind of guys we got on our team.”
Both of Ehlers goals came on shots from the outside as he attempts to get more pucks on goal this season.
“It’s going the right way,” said Ehlers. “I feel comfortable with that shoot-first mentality. And I think that, like I’ve said many times before, when you have that mentality, other things will open up.”
Icing a lineup that should look quite similar to their opening night group next Wednesday in Anaheim, the Jets came flying out of the gates.
Morrissey buried a nice feed from Adam Lowry to open the scoring in the first, and six minutes later Ehlers brought the house down with an end-to-end rush that he finished off with a slapshot that beat Vladar top shelf over the glove.
Nearing the midway point of the second, it would have been fair to wonder if the Flames were ever going to show up for this game. The shots were 26-5 Winnipeg when the Flames finally got on the board when Glenn Gawdin beat Connor Hellebuyck.
To make matters worse for Winnipeg, Nathan Beaulieu took a penalty in a scrum after the goal was scored, and Andrew Mangiapane would tie the game on the ensuing power play.
The Jets would take the lead on Ehlers’ second of the night and had multiple quality chances to get the hat-trick but couldn’t beat Vladar.
With under a minute left and the goalie pulled, Mikael Backlund thought he had tied the game for the Flames. But upon further review, officials determined that Matthew Tkachuk played the puck with a high-stick nine seconds earlier so the goal was waved off. They never got another shot on goal.
Hellebuyck made 16 saves to earn his second win of the preseason. Vladar was much busier, stopping 37 shots in the loss.
Mark Scheifele was one of only a few regulars from last season who was not dressed for Winnipeg.
The announced attendance was 14,937 at the Canada Life Centre.
The two sides complete their pre-season schedules in Calgary Friday night.