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Jets power past Flames with big third period

Winnipeg improves to 2-1-1 in the pre-season

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

WINNIPEG - Blake Wheeler has played two pre-season games so far this month and he's picked up the eventual game-winner in both of them.

Sunday night at Bell MTS Place, Wheeler broke a 1-1 tie with 10:17 remaining in the third period, in what was the first of three unanswered goals from the Jets, paving the way to a 4-1 win.

"We got rolling a little bit and won a few battles in the offensive zone and were able to play a bit down there," Wheeler said of the third period, where the Jets outshot the Flames 11-4.

"We turned it on a bit in the third and that was good."

Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler

Jack Roslovic, Joona Luoto, and Nikolaj Ehlers also scored for the Jets, who are now 2-1-1 in the pre-season.

The trio of Wheeler, Ehlers, and Mark Scheifele were reunited for the first time since last season and combined for five points on the night.

"Nik is at his best when he's skating and has a shooting mentality. I thought he had that tonight," said Wheeler. "It's always an adjustment. I haven't spent much time with Mark this camp yet. There are some things that you try to work on, get some timing down, and get in the right places on the ice. I think as the game went on, it got better and I thought we were pretty good."

The Jets got off to a quick start just 50 seconds into the opening period. Roslovic tucked home a rebound, the result of a Tucker Poolman wrist shot from the point for the game's opening goal.

It stayed that way until six minutes into the third, when a Dmitry Kulikov boarding penalty put the Flames on the power play. Adam Ruzicka corralled a loose puck in front of Laurent Brossoit and flipped it past the Jets goaltender's glove hand, tying things up at one.

It was the first goal the Jets had given up on the penalty kill in the preseason, snapping a streak of seven consecutive kills.

That was the only puck that got by Brossoit on this night. The 26-year-old finished with 23 saves for his second consecutive win in the pre-season.

"When you get a real competitive man that practices the way he practices, it can at times lift the bench, because the players want to do something special for him," said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. "Especially if he's been out for 10 days or he's been out for two weeks - he's a cared for teammate and you get a little extra energy from your team in front of him."

Video: CGY@WPG: Roslovic cleans up rebound for early goal

Winnipeg would respond just 3:43 later, however. Anthony Bitetto's blast from the point was tipped by Wheeler in the high slot, then caromed off the shin pad of Calgary's Oliver Kylington in front of Cam Talbot. Wheeler was right there to swiftly backhand his second of the preseason into the open cage.

Bitetto's assist on the play added to his performance on the night, which saw him play 19:37, finish +3, and send five shots on goal.

"He's a good NHL pro. He's played in a bunch of games and I think beyond the hockey what we love - and the hockey was really good - is his personality," said Maurice. "It's an NHL exhibition game and it's number four, not number seven where they're winding it up. He's talking on the bench and he's handling that game - and understandably so, he's fighting for a spot - like it's important to him. He played like that."

The lead grew to 3-1 when Luoto beat Talbot with a deflection of his own. The 21-year-old Finn gained the zone and while his initial shot on goal from the left wing was stopped, the Jets stayed with it, working the puck back to Logan Stanley at the point. Stanley sent a wrist shot back toward the net, where Luoto tipped it up and over the blocker of Talbot.

"A goal is a nice thing to have and it's a good thing for my confidence. It's new things for me here," said Luoto, who is playing on North American sized ice for the first time in his career.

"A win is always a win. That's a good thing, but there are a lot of things we can improve."

Video: CGY@WPG: Luoto tips puck into the top shelf

Ehlers finished off the scoring with his second goal in as many pre-season games by firing one into the empty Calgary net with 1:36 left in regulation.

While the Jets scored three times in the final period, Maurice felt it was actually a defensive play from Ehlers in the second period that turned the game's momentum. That defensive play turned into a chance at the other end of the ice for Logan Shaw.

"From that point on we started to skate a little bit," Maurice said.

"The third period we got a little bit of energy and played a quite a bit more of an engaged game."

Next up, the Jets have a rematch with the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Tuesday night.

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