Flames 6 Jets 2
CALGARY — The opening existed for just a split second, but Dougie Hamilton hit it perfectly.
Hamilton’s thread-the-needle second-period goal sparked the Calgary Flames to a 6-2 thumping of the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night for a sixth consecutive win that’s vaulted them into top spot in the Pacific Division.
As the scoreless clash neared the midway point, Hamilton received a drop pass from Matthew Tkachuk, gave his teammate time to set the screen and promptly zipped a shot through the legs of both Tkachuk, and the defender, and past Winnipeg goalie Michael Hutchinson for his first of two goals on the night.
It set off a four-goal outburst in the middle frame.
“I yelled at (Tkachuk) pretty loud, and he laid it in there perfectly for me, and set a good screen. Two good plays by him, for sure,” said Hamilton, who’s scored four goals in the past four games. “I saw their ‘D’ and him and just kind of waited until I could see some white space in there. As soon as it opened up, I tried to put it through.
“I couldn’t see the goalie, so I was just trying to put it through their legs and upstairs.”
Hamilton’s tally opened the floodgates, with Sam Bennett and Mikael Backlund also scoring for Calgary (16-13-2) before the second intermission.
Lance Bouma and Sean Monahan had the other Flames goals on a night Hamilton, Backlund and Tkachuk each had three points.
The three points marked a career best for Tkachuk, the rookie who celebrates his 19th birthday on Sunday.
But he isn’t he only one on the Flames with reason to celebrate. After starting the season with just five wins in their first 16 games, Calgary has won 11 of its past 15 outings and is riding its longest winning streak in a calendar year.
“Right now we’re playing to win and we’re finding ways to win,” Tkachuk said. “At the beginning of the year, everybody knows it, we were finding ways to not win. We didn’t have that belief we could win. Now we’re a really confident group.
“We’re not relying on a couple guys,” Tkachuk added.
“We know every night something different is probably going to happen and it seems like we’re getting basically everybody involved. … We’ve just got to keep this rolling. It’s been really fun the last little while when you’re having success.”
Chad Johnson, who’s been paramount in the Flames’ turnaround, stopped 26 shots. His shutout bid was snapped late in the third period when Nikolaj Ehlers collected a power-play goal and Jacob Trouba rounded out the scoring with one-tenth of a second remaining on the clock.
While the Flames are riding high, the Jets (13-15-3) are going in the other direction, having lost three in a row with four wins in their last 13 games.
“Be real careful about the effort word here,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “We were behind the game the entire night.”
“We didn’t play the game,” Ehlers said. “We didn’t play hard enough. We didn’t play smart.”
Hutchinson, who started consecutive games for just the second time this season, turned aside 25-of-29 shots in 40 minutes before giving way to Connor Hellebuyck, who made six saves.
Notes: Flames’ Kris Versteeg missed his second consecutive game (upper body), but is likely to return this week … Jets rookie Josh Morrissey played as a pro in his hometown of Calgary for the first time in his career … The home team has won the last six meetings between these clubs … Calgary’s power play has now converted at least once in five straight games … With a pair of assists, Johnny Gaudreau has netted points in all four games since returning from a broken finger that sidelined him for 10 games.