One team was playing out the string. The other has a playoff series to get ready for.
You could understand if Friday’s tussle between the Calgary Flames and Jets in Winnipeg lacked the usual juice that would ooze from an all-Canadian matchup. But playing strictly for pride, the Jets scored three unanswered goals in a 3-1 victory at the Canada Life Centre.
The Jets stayed perfect on their final homestand of the season with their third straight win.
Mason Appleton, Blake Wheeler, and Brenden Dillon recorded goals for the Jets, while Matthew Tkachuk replied for the Flames.
After being outshot by a wide margin in the opening period, the Jets peppered Flames goalie Dan Vladar with 43 shots.
“We poured on the shots,” said Jets forward Mason Appleton. “I think we were getting outshot by 10 really early in the game, and then we put up what, a 40-spot. So, any (time) you put 40 on net, you’re usually gonna like how the scoreboard looks at the end of the game.”
It was the 12th time this season the Jets recorded 40 or more shots on goal.
The Jets ended up outshooting the Flames 43-33, including 19-8 in the second period, but Hellebuyck was still asked to come up with a couple of key saves that helped prevent a swing in momentum. But it still doesn’t soothe the sting of missing the playoffs.
“It doesn’t put a band-aid on anything,” said Hellebuyck. “It still sucks. But it is nice showing that we can win, and we’re not giving up, so that’s awesome.”
While many are probably wondering where was this hot streak when they really needed it a month ago, the interim head coach is just glad to see his team playing the right way, even if they have nothing left to play for.
“I see a team – when they put their mind to it, is very good, and have an opportunity to win every night,” said Dave Lowry. “I know sometimes it’s easier to play when you don’t have the pressure of the playoffs and everything, but structurally the group is committed, and we’ve gotten results.”
Hellebuyck also confirmed after the game he would not be attending the IIHF World Championship as a member of the United States.
“I’m gonna focus on being a dad,” Hellebuyck said.
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The visitors would open the scoring just over three minutes in when Tkachuk escaped the Flames zone on a partial breakaway. He deked out Hellebuyck and squeezed one through the keeper for his 42nd goal of the season.
Winnipeg would get an excellent chance around the midway point of the first when Mikael Backlund and Tyler Toffoli took penalties 42 seconds apart.
Wheeler found himself alone in front of the Calgary net, but he was turned aside by Vladar. Later, Kyle Connor had a wide open net but ripped a shot high and wide as the Jets came up empty.
Dillon’s roughing penalty with 6:24 left in the frame put the Flames on a power play for the second time, but like their opening chance with the man advantage, the Flames got some good looks on net but couldn’t beat Hellebuyck.
It looked like Winnipeg would enter the first intermission down by a goal, but with just 12 seconds left the captain struck for the Jets.
After taking a pass from Paul Stastny as Winnipeg gained the zone, Wheeler dropped the puck to Ehlers, who sent it back to Wheeler for a one-timer that beat Vladar to tie the score.
The shots after one were 18-12 in favour of the Flames.
Just past the six-minute mark of the second, the Jets would take the lead for the first time. Josh Morrissey blasted a shot from the point that was kicked aside by Vladar but right onto the stick of Appleton, who deposited the puck into the yawning cage.
It was Appleton’s 8th of the season and second since he was re-acquired at the trade deadline.
Winnipeg continued to pour on the pressure as the second wore on, outshooting Calgary 17-3 in the first 12 minutes of the frame, but the score remained 2-1 in the Jets’ favour after 40 minutes.
The third period did not contain a lot of excitement as the Flames appeared very much like a team most concerned with just getting the game over with to focus on the playoffs.
The Jets nearly padded the lead about eight minutes into the period but Dominic Toninato hit the post on a rush opportunity.
It looked like there could be some controversy in the final minutes. Right after the Flames pulled the goalie, Tkachuk caught Morrissey in the mouth with a high stick, drawing blood, but there was no call on the play.
Dillon made sure it would be a moot point when he hit the empty net from his own end for his third goal of the season.
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Hellebuyck made 32 saves in the contest while Vladar stopped 40 in the loss.
Winnipeg wraps up its season Sunday afternoon against Seattle.