By The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Johnny Gaudreau put in a little extra work to keep his hot start going.
The winger scored in regulation to extend a season-opening point streak to eight games before sealing Calgary’s shootout victory Monday as the Flames beat Winnipeg 4-3.
After Sean Monahan buried one for Calgary and Kyle Connor responded for the Jets, Gaudreau wove into the offensive zone and performed a series of dekes that tied Connor Hellebuyck in knots for the winning margin in the fourth round.
On the heels of the worst offensive output of his career in 2019-20 — 58 points in 70 games — the 27-year-old Gaudreau already has six goals and four assists in this pandemic-shortened campaign.
“I feel really comfortable,” he said. “Me and (Monahan) are playing really good in our defensive zone. We’re being smart. I don’t think we’ve been out on the ice for a 5-on-5 goal (against).
“And we’re getting our chances offensively.”
Flames head coach Geoff Ward said Gaudreau’s details in his own end and Calgary’s success on the power play, which runs though the diminutive forward, have been crucial to the early success.
“He’s having fun, he’s smiling coming to the rink,” Ward said. “When he gets time and space with the puck he can usually do good things.
“It’s been a great start.”
Andrew Mangiapane and Christopher Tanev — on a fluke goal from inside his own blue line — also scored in regulation for Calgary (4-3-1). Jacob Markstrom turned aside 25 shots, while Elias Lindholm had two assists.
Markstrom, who left the Vancouver Canucks for the Flames in free agency, made a couple big saves in overtime before denying three Jets in the shootout, including a desperation toe stop on Blake Wheeler that had the big netminder grinning under his mask.
“He’s been our best player by far this season, hands down,” Gaudreau said of Markstrom. “Great signing for us, huge pickup for us.
“He’s crazy back there.”
Connor, with two on the power play, and Mark Scheifele, with a goal and an assist, replied for Winnipeg (5-3-1), which got 25 saves from Hellebuyck. Wheeler added three assists as the Jets blew a 2-0 lead before battling back to tie things late in the third period to at least grab a point.
“We’ve got to be better,” Scheifele said. “We’ve got to stick to our game. We can’t sit back. We’ve got to keep being aggressive.”
But it was the Flames on the front foot down 2-1 in the third as Gaudreau tied things at 6:54 when he redirected a feed from Juuso Valimaki past Hellebucyk after the Jets turned the puck over.
The Winnipeg netminder made a great stick save on Lindholm midway through the period to keep things level on a play that resulted in a Flames man advantage the Jets would kill off. Hellebuyck followed that up by stoning Mangiapane before Tanev hit the post as Calgary came in waves.
“You could tell the ice kind of tilted,” Gaudreau said. “We had four, five, six really good chances to make it 3-2.”
Then after hitting the crossbar off the rush, Mangiapane banged home a rebound with 6:15 left in regulation for his first to give the Flames a 3-2 lead.
“The puck was just sitting in front of the net,” said Mangiapane, who had a career-high 17 goals in 2019-20. “Happy to tap it home.”
But the Jets tied things with 1:50 remaining when Scheifele tipped Neal Pionk’s point shot beyond Markstrom’s glove for his fourth with Hellebuyck on the bench for an extra attacker.
The game marked the first of three straight meetings between the North Division rivals at Bell MTS Place this week, with the next two set for Tuesday and Thursday. The Jets will actually play four in a row against the Flames over a nine-day stretch, while Calgary hosts the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday before resuming hostilities with Winnipeg at Scotiabank Saddledome two nights later.
Coming off Saturday’s 4-1 home loss against Vancouver, the Jets shuffled their top-6 forward group, with Scheifele centring Andrew Copp and Nikolaj Ehlers, while Paul Stastny skated between Connor and Wheeler.
The Flames, meanwhile, secured a hard-fought 2-0 victory in Montreal over the Canadiens on Saturday that snapped a three-game slide thanks to Markstrom’s second shutout of the season.
Winnipeg, which lost 3-1 to Calgary during the summer restart’s qualifying round, took the season opener for both clubs 4-3 in overtime on Jan. 14 courtesy of Patrik Laine’s winner — the sniper’s last action with the team before he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets along with Jack Roslovic for Pierre-Luc Dubois and a third-round pick nine days later.
The Jets opened the scoring at 4:31 of Monday’s first period on a man advantage when Connor, who entered without a point in his last three games, wired his fifth upstairs on Markstrom.
Winnipeg carried the bulk of the play throughout the opening 20 minutes, and doubled the lead on another man advantage at 13:46 when Connor one-timed his seventh from almost the exact same spot.
The visitors settled down in the intermission and got a lucky break to cut the deficit in half seven seconds into the second when Tanev’s attempted breakaway pass from inside his own zone skipped in front of Hellebucyk and fooled the reigning Vezina Trophy winner for the shutdown defenceman’s first with Calgary.
“It went through a few legs and sticks, and obviously took a fortunate bounce,” said Tanev, who also signed with Calgary after leaving Vancouver. “I will take any goal I can get.”
Winnipeg had a great chance early in the third, but Markstrom robbed Scheifele with the glove. The Jets sniper the came close a second time later in the period on a power play only to see his shot chime off the post before Gaudreau equalized moments later.
“We were a little slow coming out,” Ward said. “There’s a saying that after an emotional win, which we had in Montreal, the next game is often hard to get into.
“But I give our guys a lot of credit for the way that they regrouped.”
With Gaudreau once again leading the charge.
Notes: Jets centre Adam Lowry saw a six-game point streak (four goals, four assists) come to an end. … Dubois remains unavailable for Winnipeg as he continues to serve a two-week quarantine after crossing the Canada-U.S. border shortly after the deal with Columbus was finalized.