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DOWN TO THE WIRE

Lindholm's team-leading seventh of the year not enough, as Jets rally to tie the game late, before winning it in overtime

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

What a scene.

The flurries rolled off the broad, prairie sky like the wandering flakes in a classic, holiday snow-globe.

It was, in a word, magic.

The glistening vista, stunningly reminiscent of those frosty nights on the 'ODR.'

Minus the cocoa and 6 o'clock dinner bell, of course.

 

Video: Brendan Parker recaps the Heritage Classic

 

Billed as a once-in-a-lifetime experience - a spectacle, few are lucky enough to witness - the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic was all that and more, leaving many with all sorts of memories and 'we were there'-type moments forever engrained in photo and film.

Naturally, it went right down to the wire.

Of the 33,350 hearty souls on hand braving the 'balmy,' minus-10 windchill, it looked like Elias Lindholm's team-leading seventh of the year would hold as the game-winner in a tight, defensive battle through 40 minutes.

But Josh Morrissey and the Winnipeg Jets rallied to even the score late, before Bryan Little finished it 3:04 into 3-on-3 overtime as the Flames dropped a 2-1 decision at Mosaic Stadium.

David Rittich was under siege in the final 20 minutes and change, finishing with 43 saves (with 17 of those in the third period and overtime).

With the OTL, the Flames' record falls to 6-5-2 on the year.

"We played good for most of the night, but in the third period they came out pretty strong and we didn't have an answer for it early," said Matthew Tkachuk. "But they don't give you two points for playing well for most of the game.

"You've got to finish 'er off."

Tkachuk said that, despite the loss, playing in his first outdoor game one of the best experiences of his hockey life:

"What a great time it was. What a great host in Regina. I'm sure both teams had a blast. The ice was perfect, the fans were into it. All in all, it was an awesome, awesome experience and something I hope to do again because I loved it.

"I never grew up playing in atmospheres like that in St. Louis and Arizona, but it feels right. If feels like that's how hockey should be played, and legends of the past grew up playing. You hear all the greats talking about growing up and playing on the outdoor rink. It's pretty cool to play in that environment."

 

Video: "You've got to finish 'er off."

 

The Flames - who were tagged for the first three penalties of the contest - opened the scoring with a powerplay goal, thanks in large part to all-world hand-eye of No. 19, who speared the puck out of mid-air to keep a Jets clearing attempt in the zone prior to the scoring play.

Johnny Gaudreau showed great vision at the side of the net, patiently ragging the puck and fooling Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck with a clever head fake, and dishing a silky pass across the goalmouth, where Lindholm buried it.

 

Tweet from @NHLFlames: Make it 7��� goals on the year for Lindy.#HeritageClassic | #Flames pic.twitter.com/Np8KtzpOVd

 

Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice challenged the play under the new rules this year, hoping to have the call reversed as a result of Tkachuk's incredible knock-down, but the replay showed no conclusive evidence that he made contact with the puck above the shoulder.

 

Tweet from @PR_NHL: Explanation of Coach���s Challenge at 14:47 of the second period in the @NHLFlames / @NHLJets game. https://t.co/S8FLrC0297 #HeritageClassic

 

The Jets were issued a delay of game penalty as a result of the unsuccessful challenge, but the Flames were unable to cash on the powerplay.

With only a few seconds left in the period, tempers flared behind the Flames net after Jets forward Adam Lowry - son of former Flame Dave - took a long run at Oliver Kylington, drilling the D man from behind and crushing his head against the glass.

Lowry was issued a minor for boarding, while Kylington got up under his own steam, but leaned on Head Athletic Therapist Kent Kobelka as he moseyed off to the dressing room.

Kylington did return for the third.

But the Flames were unable to take advantage on the powerplay, with the 'fresh' ice doing them no favours at the start of the period.

And that may have been the turning point.

 

Video: The captain weighs in on the loss in Regina

 

The Flames were on their heels for much of the period, with the Jets holding a 10-3 edge on the shot clock through the first 15 minutes.  

The dam couldn't hold.

With Mark Giordano in the sin bin, Morrissey unloaded from the blueline, beating Rittich high over the shoulder with a rising blast, bar down, through traffic.

Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor picked up the helpers at 15:49.

"Tough to give one up in the last five, but I thought we were good," Giordano said. "They were pushing, but we were trying to play simple, play direct. You'd like to get that second one, because when you're only up 1-0 there's little room for error."

Neither team had much in the way of quality early on, with the conditions quite clearly playing a factor. Bouncing pucks, trouble maintaining their footing and, of course, a 35-40 km/h headwind, all keeping the majority of the play in the neutral zone.

Oliver Kylington had the best chance of a scoreless first period, bringing the puck down from the left point, driving the net and deking to his backhand with Hellebuyck sliding off to his right, but the dangle just drifted wide.

 

THEY SAID IT:

GIORDANO ON ICE QUALITY:

It was pretty good. It was a little bit thick, but it was fast, you could make plays. I only thought there were a few moments in the game where it was bouncing around a little bit, but for the most part I thought it was really good."

GIORDANO ON WEATHER CONDITIONS:

"It's disappointing the way we lost it right at the end. But the atmosphere, coming in here, it was cool. Playing outside, it's funny. It feels like you have a lot of energy and it feels good in the lungs. We're happy to play in it, but right now it stings with how it played out in the end."

TRAVIS HAMONIC ON WHAT HE'LL REMEMBER MOST:

"It's one of those situations - when you're older, you'll look back and realize it was a pretty cool event and fun to be a part of. ... Everyone was surprised how much better the ice was. It was significantly better - I guess, obviously, with it being a little colder. It was snowing quite a bit and there's obviously a lot of snow on the ice, but I don't think it really affected the pace. It was pretty quick back and forth. There were a lot of rolling pucks, a lot of bouncing pucks, and they were stopping in weird positions when you're trying to make a read."

COACH BILL PETERS ON SINGLE POINT:

"The result, when you end up with a loss, it feels like most of the others - I thought we were in good shape, but they pushed in the third. ... Some things we can definitely do better, we'll learn from and move on."

PETERS ON NEW LINES:

"They were fine. We'll leave them like that. Roughly. We might make a tweak here or there, but I liked them. I thought we were deep."

 

Video: "They pushed in the third."

 

ONE-TIMERS:

There have been 27 previous regular-season outdoor NHL games to date: 11 Winter Classics, 10 Stadium Series, four Heritage Classics, one Centennial Classic and one NHL100 Classic, averaging 54,500 spectators per game. … Sixteen outdoor NHL games have taken place at football venues, 10 have been hosted by baseball parks and one has been staged in a soccer stadium. Road teams are 16-8-3. … Regina became the 14th Canadian city - and second in Saskatchewan - to play host to a regular-season NHL game (indoors or outdoors), following the seven current Canadian franchises plus Fort Erie, Ont.; Halifax, N.S.; Hamilton, Ont.; Quebec City, Que.; Saskatoon, Sask.; and Windsor, Ont.

 

Video: CGY@WPG: Flames, Jets walk out at Heritage Classic

 

THE LINEUP:

Here are the forward lines, D pairings and goalie to start Saturday's game (starters in bold):

FORWARDS

Johnny Gaudreau - Elias Lindholm - Matthew Tkachuk
Andrew Mangiapane - Sean Monahan - Sam Bennett
Milan Lucic - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Alan Quine - Derek Ryan - Tobias Rieder

DEFENCE

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson

GOALTENDER

David Rittich

 

UP NEXT:

The Flames continue their five-game, 10-day road trip on Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes. From there, stops in Nashville, Columbus and Washington await, before the club returns home on to open a four-game homestand on Tuesday, Nov. 5 against the Arizona Coyotes (click here for tickets).

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