By Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press
CALGARY — Winnipeg forward Kyle Connor knew precisely where he wanted to go with his shot, and that’s exactly where he put it.
On the decisive goal Mark Scheifele gained the zone then dropped the puck for Blake Wheeler, who threaded a cross-ice pass over to Connor, who leaned into a slap shot, putting the puck into the top corner before Jacob Markstrom could get across.
“As a shooter, you know where the net is, you know where you’re going, that spatial awareness of where you’re going to shoot,” said Connor. “Something like that, you just try to get off quick. High glove was open.”
Connor’s 14 goals leads the team and ties him for fifth in the NHL with Connor McDavid.
Wheeler also assisted on Connor’s late first-period goal that got the comeback started, after the Flames had surged to an early 2-0 advantage.
“It’s easy to sulk and feel pretty crappy about the one last night,” Scheifele said about the club’s 7-1 loss in Minnesota. “We all put our big boy pants on and came to play tonight and it was a lot of gutsy efforts and a lot of blocked shots and a lot of taken hits, made hits, and that’s what it takes in the league.”
For Saturday’s game, Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice juggled his forward lines, reuniting the Wheeler-Connor-Scheifele trio. It worked.
“It was fun being back with the boys,” said Scheifele. “I’ve played a lot of games with those guys and we’ve had a lot of big games. We’ve had some fun together. It was nice to get on the scoresheet and get some big goals.”
Paul Stastny and Andrew Copp, into an empty net, also scored for Winnipeg (10-7-4). The Jets return home to host the Arizona Coyotes on Monday.
Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm scored for Calgary (12-4-5), which lost in regulation for the first time in eight games (5-1-2). Johnny Gaudreau had two assists to extend his point streak to six games (five goals, five assists). The Flames wrap up a three-game homestand on Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“We played a really good game, but we made a couple of mistakes and they ended up in our net. We didn’t finish enough opportunities,” said Calgary coach Darryl Sutter.
Pulled after surrendering four goals on 14 shots against the Wild, Connor Hellebuyck bounced back with a 34-save performance to improve to 7-5-4.
“So (Hellebuyck) says this morning, just remember last year we were struggling and came in here and put up a shutout. He’s got the list. He’s reminding me of that,” said Maurice. “He was outstanding in this game. I’m not saying we outplayed Calgary. They had a bunch of real good chances. We had some good chances. But our goalie was pretty damn good tonight.”
Markstrom had 24 stops to fall to 8-4-4.
The Jets had a great chance to take the lead with the score tied 2-2 and under five minutes remaining in the second period. Milan Lucic was assessed a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct for a heavy hit along the end boards that temporarily shook up Jets defenceman Dylan DeMelo.
But Calgary killed it off to keep the game tied into the third.
“In the third, we were pushing hard for the third one, but it just didn’t go our way tonight,” said Lindholm, who extended his point streak to seven games (two goals, seven assists). “Then they get one with four minutes left. I think all of us on the ice could have made a better read but that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
It was just the second time Calgary lost in regulation when scoring first, which they’ve done an NHL-leading 17 times (12-2-3).
“The outcome sucks right now but at the end of the day, we just gotta find a way to get that one to overtime or try to get two before that, but we can’t lose that one in regulation. Those ones hurt so we’ll learn from it,” said Tkachuk.
NOTES: Calgary was a perfect 3-for-3 on the penalty kill and is now 26-for-27 over the last eight games. The Flames entered the night ranked third in the NHL on the PK… Winnipeg had been 0-3-0 on the back end of back-to-back games… The Flames led the Western Conference standings after 20 games for the first time since 1993-94.