The Winnipeg Jets finally returned to action after the Christmas break, receiving the gift of a home match-up against the red hot Calgary Flames. If you started clenching a bit, that’d be a fair reaction. The last meeting with Calgary was not particularly fortuitous for the Jets, to put it mildly. On the other hand, Winnipeg entered the break on an absolute winning tear, so it had to continue, right? RIGHT?!
The First Period
The opening 20 minutes were pretty positive for the Jets. They harassed Calgary early and pumped some quality offensive pressure. The Flames looked a touch overwhelmed at times, but Big Save Dave Rittich was on the case, answering any and all challenges Winnipeg put forth. Connor Hellebuyck wasn’t as busy, but made the few saves he was required to. One positive note was that Patrik Laine and Bryan Little started to look good again. The two forwards were buzzing early, and Laine clearly wants to break the recent downturn in scoring form. The period, however, ended scoreless, and Laine probably went to eat a bowl of Smarties ice-cream during the intermission break.
The Second Period
Well, Laine broke his goalscoring drought early! Sadly, it was an own-goal, registered in Johnny Gaudreau’s favor. Just over a minute into the period, Gaudreau sprang a 2-on-1 rush after blowing past Jacob Trouba. Laine managed to backcheck and cover for Trouba in time, extending his stick to block Gaudreau’s pass. Physics decided to give Laine the finger and the puck deflected off his stick and cleanly over Hellebuyck’s shoulder. Hockey sure is cruel, y’all.
The Jets chased the game aggressively, testing Rittich from some prime scoring positions around the net. Little was notably good here, though he still couldn’t hit paydirt. Kyle Connor, who’s been scuffling for a while now, was notably less good. He should probably get a demotion soon. Connor’s rash decisions and poor defensive zone play torpedoed an otherwise great night from his line, which hurts to say.
At least Adam Lowry was good! He collected an Alan Quine turnover and blew the puck past Rittich to knot the game late in the period, giving Jets fans a glimmer of hope. Gaudreau than stole that hope right back, setting up a gorgeous passing sequence with Sean Monahan for a perfect goal. The Scheifele line got embarrassed for once, and Calgary exited the period with a 2-1 lead.
The Third Period
Winnipeg tried desperately to find a way past Rittich, but the man lived up to his nickname in full. He’s been an excellent find for the Flames, who’ve struggled to find an actual starting netminder in the post-Kiprusoff era. While Rittich is nowhere near Kiprusoff’s legacy, his early returns are quite promising. Tonight, he was more than a match for Winnipeg’s vaunted shooters, shutting them out over the final 20 minutes.
The Jets got a bit of a lifeline, nabbing a late power play that should have ended in ecstasy. Instead, Mark Jankowski pounced on a bad turnover and deposited the puck for a tidy shorthanded goal. Winnipeg then pulled the goalie and felt the sting of a Gaudreau empty net marker to complete the hat-trick. The scoreline looks ugly, but the Jets were fine this evening. Rittich was just that much better. The out-of-town scoreboard was the only source of relief on a bitter night.
- Dave Rittich was pretty great.
- Laine and Little finally had a quality outing together.
- Kyle Connor was very, very bad again. Do the thing, Maurice.
- Hellebuyck took a knee to the head from Hanifin. He looked a bit out of it.
- Byfuglien slashed Gaudreau late in the game. Not smart, buddy.