Two Western Canadian teams with ties to Dixie battled in Calgary tonight. In the end the old Atlanta team prevailed. The Calgary Flames (previously the Atlanta Flames) defeated the Winnipeg Jets (previously the Atlanta Thrashers) 5-3 before a charged up crowd at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The Jets road woes continue as they drop their record away from the MTS Centre to 11-19-4, ranking them 25th in the NHL. On top of that, the Jets remain winless in back-to-back road games this season much to the chagrin of head coach Claude Noel.
Tonight, the penalty killing was simply brutal for the Jets. Calgary scored on all 3 power play chances, including 2 in the first 7 minutes of the game. Mark Stuart’s delay of game minor led to a Marc Giordano slap shot from the point eluding a screened Ondrej Pavelec at 3:47 of the first. Then a Tanner Glass boarding call was a catalyst for Jarome Iginla banging in his 28th of the year off a goalmouth scramble. It got worse for the Jets as Matt Stajan, (yes Matt Stajan) fired home his 4th of the season giving the Flames an early 3-0 lead.
But the Jets did fight back in a wild first period. Evander Kane’s team high 27th of the season got the old Thrashers on the board. Then Blake Wheeler off a terrific solo effort wristed home his 17th with just 26.2 seconds left in the first. I was critical of Wheeler earlier in the season but he and Pavelec have been the two most valuable players on the Jets this season.
The second period was much tamer as both teams settled down from that frenetic pace in the first. The Flames got the only goal as Alex Tanguay scored his 11th of the year restoring Calgary’s two goal lead.
The third saw many great chances for the Jets but Miikka Kiprusoff was brilliant in the Flames goal, making 42 saves on the night. Another dumb Jets penalty, this one taken by captain Andrew Ladd, led to the Flames fifth goal as Curtis Glencross knocked home his 24th of the campaign, giving the Flames some much-needed insurance. Tobias Enstrom fired home his 5th late in the third to close out the scoring in this one.
The loss is a damaging one for the Jets playoff hopes. Currently tied for 8th with Washington, the Jets have played 2 more games than the Capitals and now will need to do some scoreboard watching. Add to the fact Buffalo is only two points back with a game in hand and Tampa Bay is 4 points back with two games in hand, the Jets are in a precarious spot. Fortunately for Winnipeg, they will return to the friendly and noisy confines of the MTS Centre for the next three games as Dallas, Washington and Carolina will pay visits. The Washington game is a massive one and could very well determine the playoff fates of both teams.
Still lots of work is needed for the old Thrashers and as they say in Atlanta, “Y’all ain’t seen nothing yet.”
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