EDMONTON — The Winnipeg Jets are on the brink of playoff elimination after a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of the Calgary Flames on Tuesday at Rogers Place.
Connor Hellebuyck had a tough night in net, while a Jets team already missing stars Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine had no answer for Calgary’s big guns, as Elias Lindholm, Mikael Backlund, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Milan Lucic and Johnny Gaudreau all scored.
Nikolaj Ehlers and Andrew Copp had Winnipeg’s goals.
Calgary took Game 1 of the best-of-five qualifying round series on Saturday night by a 4-1 score, while the Jets responded with a gutsy 3-2 victory on Monday afternoon to even the series. Now they’ll need to win two straight elimination games, starting on Thursday night. Game 5, if necessary, would go Saturday.
The Jets will likely have to do it while severely shorthanded once again, as Scheifele and Laine are considered doubtful due to injuries suffered in Game 1. The Jets also played a second straight game without depth forward Mason Appleton, and forward Mathieu Perreault was knocked out of Tuesday’s game after being crushed by Sam Bennett into the boards, despite not having the puck. No penalty was called on the play.
That’s 33 per cent of their Game 1 forwards sidelined with injuries, leaving them with only 19-year-old rookie David Gustafsson and veteran Mark Letestu as the remaining healthy options inside the bubble.
The Jets were considered the home team for this one, and that meant several familiar sights and sounds from Bell MTS Place were present. Winnipeg wore their blue jerseys, they warmed up to their traditional pre-game music playlist, their usual intro video was played before the pre-recorded voice of PA announcer Jay Richardson introduced them, and singer Stacey Nattrass belted out a recorded version of O Canada, complete with an included True North shout.
All that was missing were 15,000 cheering fans wearing white, although they wouldn’t have had a lot to get excited about in this one.
Ehlers got the Jets off to a good start when he took a long-distance pass from defenceman Dmitry Kulikov and beat Calgary goalie Cam Talbot on the breakaway for his second career playoff goal, and second in as many days, at 10:04 of the first period. Winnipeg has now opened the scoring in all three games.
But a needless tripping penalty by Perreault just nine seconds later led to Lindholm tipping in a shot nine seconds into the subsequent power play. And it was all downhill from there.
Hellebuyck and defenceman Neal Pionk had a malfunction at the junction behind the Jets net, with Andrew Mangiapane stealing the puck and feeding Backlund, who buried it as Hellebuyck awkwardly tried to get back into the net, his back turned to the play, at 5:37 of the second period.
Calgary looked to have quickly made it 3-1 courtesy of Lucic, but the Jets successfully challenged that Hellebuyck was interfered with on the play by Dillon Dube. No matter, as Monahan struck on the power play at 7:49, this time with Jansen Harkins in the box, to take control of the game.
Copp brought the Jets back within one at 8:09 when he scored his second of the series on a nifty backhand, but Tkachuk made it 4-2 at 12:48 after being left wide open in front of Hellebuyck and beating him upstairs following a pass from Mangiapane.
Lucic rubbed some salt in the wounds at 8:28 of the third period, once again on the power play, while Gaudreau added an empty-netter with just over two minutes left.
Calgary’s power play is now 5-for-14 in the series, while Winnipeg is 2-for-15 with the extra man, along with giving up a shorthanded goal. In other words, they’re getting killed on special teams.
Hellebuyck made 26 saves in defeat, while Talbot had 33.
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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