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Jets hold off Flames in pre-season finale

by Ryan Dittrick (@ryandittrick) / Winnipeg Jets

CALGARY, Alberta – The Winnipeg Jets closed out the pre-season on a winning note Saturday, defeating the Calgary Flames 3-2 at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Blake Wheeler, Ben Chiarot and Drew Stafford (EN) did the damage offensively, while Ondrej Pavelec made 29 saves for the win.

Lance Bouma and David Jones scored for the Flames.

With a third consecutive victory, the Jets finish the pre-season with a 3-2-2 record.

“We struggled a little bit early on – as we thought we would with our lineup – but to win the last three, we get to have a good week,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said.

“I’m starting to see some of our veteran guys round into form. Our young players that were vying for jobs have been really consistent with their game. To get on a plane and feel good, that’s a positive, too.”

The Jets open their 2015-16 regular-season schedule on Thursday, Oct. 8 in Boston.

The Flames went the first five-and-a-half minutes without generating a shot, but led 15-5 when the horn sounded to end a heavily tilted opening period.

The Jets had a pair of power-play chances but failed to convert, or even generate much of anything offensively in both. They did, however, strike iron early on, as Bryan Little rifled a shot from the top of the far circle, but were otherwise kept to the outside.

“I thought we tightened things up defensively and that led to more offence,” Little said of the adjustments the Jets made going into the second period. “We made a plan of it to go out there and get more pucks on net. We tried to cut down the extra pass and it worked. We got more shots and more chances out of it.

“There were moments that could have been a little better, but you can’t complain about winning the hockey game and ending the pre-season on that note.”

The Flames got a chunk of the post themselves on a man-advantage early in the second period.

Wheeler opened the scoring with a nifty, cross-body redirection, guiding a 45-foot offering past Ramo. Toby Enstrom recorded the assist with his waist-level shot from the far point, giving the winger an

easy target as he bulled his way to the net.

The Jets took a 2-0 lead at 8:18. After receiving a beautiful feed from Andrew Copp, Chiarot picked the corner from an impossible angle in tight, netting his third of the pre-season with one of the prettier goals of his career.

“I don’t know what to say. … That’s usually not my bread and butter,” Chiarot said with a laugh. “I saw the goalie was maybe cheating a little bit so I went for it.”

Chiarot had more than 17 minutes of ice time tonight. Overall, he’s had a terrific training camp and is excited to get going for real.

“I got some experience last year playing three quarter of the season, but I feel comfortable here now,” he said. “I got my feet wet last year, but I don’t have those jitters anymore. … You know what an NHL game feels like. You know what the speed is like, you know the players on the other team a little better and what they’re capable of. You feel more in your element. It’s tough to explain, but I’m more comfortable, more confident and I just go out and play now instead about worrying about making mistakes.

“This is my first time making it this far in training camp, so I didn’t realize how long the pre-season really was.”

The Jets outshot the Flames 9-5 in the middle frame.

Calgary cut the lead in half with a bit of a lucky one early in the third. Bouma was credited with the goal at 3:45, pitchforking the puck past Pavelec amid a pile of blue and red sweaters down low.

But that was all the Flames could muster when it mattered. Stafford scored an empty-netter with 66 seconds to play, and the Flames (Jones) got one back in garbage time.

Next up: The Bruins.

“Especially after having a long summer we’re definitely ready to get after it,” Stafford said.

LATE HITS: Mathieu Perreault left the game late in the third period and did not return. According to Maurice, he looked “pretty good” post-game but will be re-evaluated tomorrow. … Mark Scheifele was a late scratch after tweaking something at the morning skate. As a result, J.C. Lipon was inserted on the wing, while Perreault took Scheifele’s spot in the middle between Chris Thorburn and Nikolaj Ehlers. … Andrew Ladd, Adam Lowry and Dustin Byfuglien stayed back in Winnipeg, while Flames coach Bob Hartley dressed a lineup resembling his opening-night roster.

-- Ryan Dittrick,

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