EDMONTON, Alberta (AP)Johnny Gaudreau and Mikael Backlund scored power-play goals to lead the Calgary Flames to a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night in the opener of their qualifying round series.
Tobias Rieder had a short-handed goal and Andrew Mangiapane added an empty-netter for Calgary. Cam Talbot stopped 17 shots.
”I was really happy with our team effort,” Gaudreau said. ”It was a really good complete game from power play to penalty-kill, goaltending, 5-on-5. I thought we did a really great job tonight.”
Andrew Copp scored midway through the first period to give Winnipeg the lead minutes after the Jets lost Mark Scheifele to a leg injury. Patrik Laine then left the game early in the third after a collision with Flames captain Mark Giordano.
Connor Hellebuyck finished with 29 saves for the Jets.
Game 2 in the best-of-5 series is Monday.
The potential loss of season scoring co-leader Scheifele would be devastating for Winnipeg’s Stanley Cup prospects.
”We don’t know the severity of it,” Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler said. ”We dont knw what’s going to happen. ,,, Arguably your top offensive player who lggs so many minutes, especially down the middle, such a huge piece of what we do and what we need to do. No matter what, you can’t replicate what he brings to our lineup.”
Scheifele went awkwardly into the boards at 5:41 of the first. He appeared to jam his left leg under him as Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk applied his arm to Scheifele’s back. Tkachuk’s skate appeared to make contact with Scheifele’s, but no penalty was called on the play.
Tkachuk was adamant he didn’t cause Scheifele’s injury.
”Absolutely not,” he said. ”He was turning away, I just went in and my left skate had a little bit of speed wobbles. I was moving and probably going a little too fast for myself. My leg just collided, it looked like it jammed him up. His body was going one way, but when I hit him his legs just stayed that one way. I feel terrible.”
Jets coach Paul Maurice saw it differently.
”It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg,” Maurice said. ”He went after the back of the leg. He could have cut his Achilles (tendon). He could have ended the man’s career.
”It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”
Wheeler summoned Tkachuk for retribution on the Flames forward’s next shift. Tkachuk obliged and the two traded punches.
Just 31 seconds after that scrap, Adam Lowry dished a backhand from behind the net out front to Copp to whip over Talbot’s glove for the early lead.
But Winnipeg otherwise mustered little offense with a power play held scoreless on seven chances.
”You can’t say enough about how well we played in our (defensive) zone tonight,” said Talbot, who got the start ahead of David Rittich. ”I didn’t have to make ton of Grade-A saves. Guys in front of me backchecked hard.We aways had a third guy high. We took away their speed on the rush and really gave them nothing in the middle of the ice other than their goal.”
Gaudreau tied it at 7:06 of the second, corralling a bobbling pass from Sean Monahan and firing it past Hellebuyck’s glove.
Rieder gave the Flames the lead on a backhander on a short-handed breakaway with 7:09 left in the second.
Backlund made it 3-1 on a high shot on Hellebuyck’s blocker side with 1:46 left in the middle period.
”I thought the second period was one of our most dominant periods in recent memory, even going back to the end of the season,” Tkachuk said. ”Lot of guys played hard, lot of guys played physical, lot of guys wore them down. … I liked our overall play in the third as well.”
Mangiapane sealed it wit 1:41 left in the third.