Diaz, Bollig help Flames hand Jets fourth straight loss
Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick)
/ Winnipeg Jets
CALGARY, Alberta – The Winnipeg Jets have hit a bump in the road.
The Calgary Flames – otherwise known as the NHL’s most productive third-period team – extended a one-goal lead early in the final frame and never looked back Monday night, defeating the Jets 5-2 in front of a sold-out crowd at Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Flames now have a league-best 66 third-period goals this season.
David Jones, Mason Raymond, Raphael Diaz, Brandon Bollig and Sean Monahan scored for the Flames, while Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little tallied the visitors' lone markers.
The Jets have now lost four straight and are only one point up on the Flames in the Western Conference playoff race. The boys in blue will look to get back on track tomorrow night they square off with the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
“You’ve got to give credit to them. They played a good game,” Little said. “They were really tight-gapped on us and any chances we did get, they blocked them. They play one of those simple, but frustrating games to play against. … They didn’t do anything special. But that was enough to frustrate us.”
Head Coach Paul Maurice said that the Jets have “another level to get to.”
“We know that we’ve had long stretches of good hockey, even though it doesn’t feel like it right now,” he said. There’s a template there that we can get back to. We’re having a hard time getting back there right now, but I believe we’re capable of it.”
The teams were tied 1-1 after a cautious opening 20 that saw a combined total of 14 shots on goal (8-6 Flames).
The Jets got the start they were looking for, scoring only 69 seconds after the opening faceoff. Capping a dominant shift on the cycle, Bryan Little slid a marvellous pass to Wheeler, who, from the far circle, rifled a shot off the base of the post and in for the electric icebreaker.
The Flames got it back within minutes, however. Knifing in on his off wing, David Jones lofted a weak backhand shot on goal. The cagey attempt eluded Michael Hutchinson, crawling across the line after momentarily disappearing in the goalie’s paraphernalia.
Hutchinson made 19 saves on 23 shots in a losing cause. He was pulled after the fourth Flames goal.
The Jets had a number of opportunities to regain the lead. Shortly after the Flames tied it, Evander Kane was sprung on a clear-cut breakaway, but his shot sailed high of Jonas Hiller. Then, off even-numbered rush late in the period, Andrew Ladd connected with Little at the far corner of the crease, but the pivot’s backhand try delivered a glancing blow off the goalpost, preserving the 1-1 score after one period of play.
The Flames took a 2-1 lead at 1:59 of the second period as Mason Raymond beat Hutchinson top shelf, blocker side after Mark Scheifele was foiled on a glorious individual effort moments earlier, turning the play back the other way.
The Jets’ top line, which had a particularly strong night, continued to press late in the middle frame. On a rare 4-on-2 rush, Little fed a cross-ice pass to Ladd, who wired a one-time shot from the top of the circle, but Hiller made it across in time to deny the captain.
Unfortunately for the Jets, those chances were few and far between. The club finished the night with only 19 shots on goal.
“I don’t know that we did enough smart things with the puck to make (offensive chances) happen. We did very well against Dallas, but didn’t do very well tonight,” Maurice said.
Monahan nearly extended the lead to 3-1 with 25 seconds left in the second, but his shot off a 2-on-1 rush with Johnny Gaudreau struck iron and stayed out.
But it was only a matter of time. With Mathieu Perreault off serving a tripping penalty, Raphael Diaz blasted home his first as a Flame to put the home side up by a pair. Finishing off a 2-on-1 3:59 later, Bollig then recorded his first in red, giving the Flames a commanding 4-1 lead.
“Until we have our forwards coming back harder, our D standing up more… We’re giving teams too much time and space,” Wheeler said. “They were able to get the red line at will tonight. We’re not a team that can be close. We’re a team that has to be on it and when we’re not, this is what it looks like. It’s not rocket science. It’s the will to want to do what we do right.”
Little gave the Jets some life with a goal at 8:43, shelving a backhand shot in tight, but it wasn’t enough. Monahan added an empty-netter with 2:33 left to seal the outcome.
When asked if he thought was a good thing the Jets are back in action tomorrow night, Maurice said: “Yes. You don’t want to sit on this one too long.”