Unquestionably, the Calgary Flames failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity when they dropped their Monday clash with the injury-riddled Winnipeg Jets by a 3-2 count.
Instead of taking a commanding lead in the Western Conference qualifying round series, the Flames find themselves and the Jets tied 1-1 in the best-of-five affair.
The good news for Calgary, though, is the chance to make amends for a dismal performance comes quickly when the puck drops for Game 3 on Tuesday.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We didn’t take them lightly,” Flames captain Mark Giordano said. “Obviously, it was a great opportunity for us, but we’ve got to look at the next one.”
Added veteran winger Milan Lucic: “Just like in the season when there’s back-to-backs, you don’t have time to dwell on wins and losses, just get back to it. That’s where our mindset has to be.”
Due to a trio of injuries sustained in the series opener, Winnipeg was without two of its top forwards, Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine, as well as depth forward Mason Appleton. Yet they overcame those losses to even the series with a gritty Game 2 performance, one that coach Paul Maurice called a top-five win with how well his charges handled the adversity.
“I’m proud we won the game in the manner that we did with the injuries that we had, because it will give the people that are not familiar to our season a glimpse of what we’ve been doing all year,” Maurice said.
However, as much as the Jets deserve kudos for Monday’s victory, the Flames were guilty of being outworked on top of their poor execution (failing to score on six power plays is proof of that) and lack of discipline.
“They battled a lot harder than us. Not good enough today to win. We’ve got to be better,” Calgary center Elias Lindholm said. “We did a good job coming back from 2-0, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to be better than this.”
Then again, should anybody really be surprised the Jets came through with a gutsy effort? This was a team that saw its blue line overhauled in the offseason due to plethora of defections either via free agency or retirement, yet battled to reach the qualifying round.
“We made the joke yesterday that things were finally back to normal, so let’s get to work,” Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler said.
“It’s one win in a long journey. I don’t know how many wins we had this year, but a good majority were like that, with some adversity.”
What remains to be seen is whether the Jets can continue to win without those key players, who combined to provide more than one-quarter of their regular-season goals.
“Throughout the year we’ve had key guys out of the lineup,” said Winnipeg forward Adam Lowry, who has been his team’s best player through the first two games. “I think that’s a testament to our team’s depth and guys coming in and taking advantage of their opportunity. We approach every game knowing we have a good chance to win. Look at how our team is built. We have a chance to win every night. We knew it was an important game to get back in this series.”
–Field Level Media