Winnipeg Jets 4 - Calgary Flames 3 (OT)
1st: 4:28, Matthew Tkachuk (Rasmus Andersson, Mark Giordano). 7:24, Patrik Laine (Kyle Connor, Derek Forbort). 11:24, Johnny Gaudreau (Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan) PP. 16:28, Elias Lindholm (Dillon Dube, Chris Tanev).
2nd: :34, Mark Scheifele (Nikolaj Ehlers). 15:04, Kyle Connor (Laine, Blake Wheeler) PP.
OT: 1:18, Patrik Laine (Neal Pionk, Connor).
We were back in action for the first game of the season tonight, and it sure was an interesting one. The Flames came out hot in this one, jumping out to an early lead, as Matthew Tkachuk picked up a goal just before the four and a half minute mark. They sure seemed to have some life, and just three minutes later an insane sequence unfolded—the Flames looked poised to extend their lead to two when Rasmus Andersson activated on the rush and very nearly picked up a goal in tight, but Derek Fobort made a sliding save in the crease to stop him, and just like that, the Jets got things moving the other way in transition and Patrik Laine got one past Jacob Markstrom to tie things up. But no matter! The Flames kept rolling through the back half of the period, and picked up two more goals—one from Johnny Gaudreau on the power play, and one from Elias Lindholm—to give themselves a comfortable lead heading into the first intermission.
The second period was, in a word, messy. The Flames started their fourth line and it did not pay off for them, as the Jets got the puck into the offensive zone, caused a bit of havoc, and that scrambling left Mark Scheifele open to make it a one-goal game just 34 seconds in. The Flames were looking to settle things down and get themselves back into the mix after this, and well, that really never happened. The Flames really struggled to complete passes and get much going in the way of sustained offensive pressure. And then there were the penalties. Late in the period, the Flames were whistled for too many men on the ice, and then while killing that penalty, Lindholm took a hooking penalty, and that gave Winnipeg a good chunk of 5-on-3 time to work with, and they didn’t squander it. With just under five minutes to go, Kyle Connor tied things up. for the Jets.
The period didn’t end quietly, either. No, inside the last minute of the period, Noah Hanifin boarded Connor, and a whole scrum broke out. So, big drama and lots of physicality already. And this is just the first game of nine this season.
The Flames started out the third period with a successful penalty kill, and the boost from that seemed to have them looking a bit more settled. It wasn’t a perfect period, but it did see them get a couple more looks, but it also saw the Jets get some looks too. Nothing came of that, though. It was a pretty sleepy period, if we’re honest. Except for, well, when this happened.
But still! No scoring in the third, so off to overtime we went.
It didn’t take long for this one to end, and it was all Jets all the way. Josh Morissey got the first chance for Winnipeg, but it was stopped by Markstrom, but they got right back at it with a chance on the rush. Laine was leading, and while he whiffed on his first attempt, he still had enough space to get a proper shot off, and he ripped it right past Markstrom. And the opening night curse remains [virtually] undefeated.
Answering one of the bigger questions heading into the night, it was a pretty solid debut for Markstrom. It definitely wasn’t perfect, there were some moments when he went to play the puck or went on a little adventure outside of his crease and we definitely got nervous. The last goal was a tough one, but we do know how good Laine’s shot is, so we can understand that one too. But he made some big saves for them, and gave us probably the best content of the night (scroll back up to that gif and relive it one more time). Jokes aside, Markstrom is still settling in with a new team, getting used to the players and the system, and some growing pains are expected. But, that said, he also gave us a lot of reason for optimism.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the inconsistency we saw across this game. The first period was good, the second was brutal. There were flashes when they looked dominant, and then times when they couldn’t complete a simple pass. We saw that at 5-on-5 and on the power play, and we don’t really know what to do with that. Which is the real Flames? Are the good or bad? Who’s to say.
But all in all, this feels about right. It’s the first game of the season, there wasn’t a pre-season, we knew this was going to be weird and ugly at times, and maybe that means we don’t have to get too fussed about anything just yet. As they say, have a short memory, shore up some details in practice, and come back stronger in the next one.
Flame of the game
Despite the outcome, there were still a number of performances to like in this one. But, that said, we’re going to have to give first star honors to Matthew Tkachuk. He picked up a goal , on the night, was making some nifty plays, and continued with his usual agitating business. Tkachuk is one of the leaders of this time, and it’s pretty critical for the team’s success to have him going. And the good news seems to be that he’s back in his usual form, jumping right back in and doing what he does best.