WINNIPEG, MB. - A big move by Blake Wheeler was good enough to beat Mike Smith with the winning goal in the shootout as the Winnipeg Jets came out of the break with a thrilling extra-time road win.
Wheeler and Bryan Little scored in the shootout as the Jets beat the Calgary Flames 2-1, in the first game of the celebration of Hockey Day in Canada on Saturday afternoon.
It was a hug win, coming out the six-day midseason break as the Jets finished their four-game (with a break) road trip with a record of 2-2-0.
The Jets are now to 27-13-7 and remained in first place in the Central Division, one point ahead of second-place Nashville, a team with three games in hand. The Jets are two points ahead of St. Louis but the Jets have a game in hand on the Blues.
Winnipeg is now 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and 6-2-1 since their star forward Mark Scheifele injured his shoulder.
On Saturday, the Flames opened the scoring. At the 8:17 mark of the first period, Dustin Byfuglien gave the puck away in his own end and Calgary’s T.J. Brodie took it to the net and beat Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck with both Byfuglien and his defensive partner, Toby Enstrom, trying to get back into position.
The Flames later made it 2-0, but a challenge by Jets coach Paul Maurice, claiming goaltender interference was upheld by the officials and the score remained 1-0.
That gave the Jets a chance and Mathieu Perreault took advantage. Perreault tipped home a backhand shot by Little to tie the game at 10:47 of the second period. Nikolaj Ehlers, who had an outstanding game, also drew an assist on Perreault’s 14th goal of the season.
The 1-1 tie held up through overtime as the Jets outshot Calgary 35-31. Both Smith and Hellebuyck were terrific in goal, but Little and Wheeler scored in the shootout and that was it.
Although the Jets had six days off, they’ll now play two games in two days. Immediately after the game, the Jets got on the plane and returned to Winnipeg where they’ll play the Vancouver Canucks at Bell MTS Place on Sunday night at 7 p.m.
Scott Taylor, Manitoba Post
Photo by James Carey Lauder