CALGARY — The Jets can finally exhale.
Adam Lowry and Blake Wheeler had two goals each as Winnipeg defeated the Calgary Flames 4-0 on Thursday to snap an ugly seven-game losing streak and clinch a playoff spot.
Connor Hellebuyck made 32 saves for his third shutout of the season and Andrew Copp added two assists for the Jets (28-21-3), whose longest slide since the franchise relocated from Atlanta to Winnipeg a decade ago has seen the club go from battling for first place in the North Division standings three weeks ago to fighting to hang onto third.
Wheeler’s second goal of the night was the 800th point of his NHL career. Mark Scheifele, meanwhile, had the primary assist on the play for his 500th point.
Paul Maurice picked up his 300th win as Jets head coach as Winnipeg wrapped up its season series against Calgary with a record of 6-2-1.
Jacob Markstrom stopped 15 shots for the Flames (22-26-3).
The Jets got a boost earlier Wednesday when the Montreal Canadiens, who sat tied with Winnipeg on points for third in the division entering play, fell 5-1 to the Ottawa Senators in the nation’s capital to halt their three-game winning streak.
The Jets and Canadiens both have four games left on the schedule.
Winnipeg was just three points back of Toronto for first in the North after picking up a 5-2 road victory over the Maple Leafs on April 15. But coming into Wednesday, the Jets were 15 points back of the Leafs, had conceded 28 goals against during their slide, and had found the back of the opposition net just 10 times.
Desperate for something positive out of the gate, Winnipeg jumped in front of Calgary just 69 seconds into Wednesday’s first period. Playing his second game back since missing four straight with a head injury, the grinding Lowry moved in on a 3-on-1 and fired the first shot of the night past Markstrom his ninth goal of the season.
The Jets’ power play — an ugly 1 for 19 during the losing run, including 0 for 6 in Monday’s 2-1 loss in Ottawa — got a chance later in the period, but was unable to connect.
Hellebuyck then had to be sharp in a tight-checking first, picking Elias Lindhom’s effort out of the air with his glove.
Lowry made it 2-0 at 5:33 of the second with the Jets killing a penalty on a nice move to the backhand through Markstrom five-hole for his fourth-career short-handed goal.
Hellebuyck, who registered the 23rd shutout of his career, stopped Matthew Tkachuk’s shot up high with Calgary still on the power play before the Flames winger rang another attempt off the crossbar.
The home side thought they had scored late in the second to cut the deficit in half, but Winnipeg defenceman Neal Pionk cleared the loose puck out of Hellebuyck’s crease. The puck bounced over the stick of Calgary’s Juuso Valimaki at the offensive blue line, and Wheeler raced in alone before beating Markstrom with a backhand upstairs for his 12th of the campaign.
Winnipeg’s captain then put the game out of reach with his milestone 800th point on a power play at 3:02 of the third for the Jets’ first four-goal showing since their last win.
Notes: Winnipeg defenceman Ville Heinola dressed for just the third time this season. Selected 20th overall at the 2019 draft, the smooth-skating blue-liner had one goal and five points in eight outings in 2019-20. … The Jets host the Senators on Saturday in the first of four consecutive home games to close out their schedule. … Calgary welcomes Ottawa on Sunday before playing four straight against the Vancouver Canucks.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2021.
The Canadian Press