For the second time in two days, the Winnipeg Jets and the Calgary Flames played each other. In Game 2, Calgary lost 3-2 to a fired-up Jets team who exacted revenge on Flames pest Matthew Tkachuk and on the score sheet. That tied the series at one game each and ramped up the animosity.
After Game 2, Jets head coach Paul Maurice mentioned how proud he was that the Jets were able to tie the series without either Mark Scheifele or Patrik Laine (both injured during the series). “I’m proud we won the game in the manner that we did with the injuries that we had,” Maurice said. “Because it will give the people that are not familiar to our season a glimpse of what we’ve been doing all year.”
The difference in Game 3 came down to the strength of the Flames’ power play and superior goaltending from Cam Talbot. They scored three power-play goals to beat the Jets 6-2 and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. Talbot made 33 saves for the win.
Sean Monahan led Calgary’s scoring with a goal and two assists. Other Flames goal-scorers included Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund, who each scored and had an assist, and Matthew Tkachuk, Milan Lucic, and Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau’s goal was an empty-netter. Rounding out the other scoring was Andrew Mangiapane, who had two assists.
Item One: Cam Talbot Has Become the Flames Goalie of Choice
Talbot stopped 33 of 35 shots in Game 3. After giving up a first-period goal to Nikolaj Ehlers, the Flames scored the next three. The 33-year-old was steady in net for the third straight game and again received great offensive support. He has a solid .924 save percentage in the series.
The Flames are now just a single win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Talbot is a huge reason for that. He’s looked like the 2016-17 Talbot whose 42 wins beat Grant Fuhr’s Edmonton Oilers franchise record for most wins in a season, and who led the Oilers to the Western Conference Semifinals after missing the playoffs for a decade.
This postseason, the veteran Talbot has given up just six goals to an undermanned Jets team. It’s a bit of a surprise that he has firmly taken over David Rittich’s job as the team’s number one goalie.
Item Two: Sean Monahan Leads the Flames with Three Points
Two of Monahan’s points came with the man advantage. He assisted on Lindholm’s first-period goal to tie the score at 1-1 and then scored a goal in the second to put the Flames up 3-1. His final point came on Gaudreau’s empty-net goal deep in the third.
Monahan was also solid in all aspects of the game and won 13 of 23 faceoffs (56.5 percent). The 25-year-old center hadn’t scored three points in a game since late October, but his Game 3 chemistry with wingers Gaudreau and Lindholm helped the Flames take the series lead. They stand a good chance of eliminating the Jets on Thursday night.
Item Three: Matthew Tkachuk Scored His First Goal During the Qualifying Series
An indication of how important Tkachuk is to the Flames, he entered Game 3 as the series’ center of attention without scoring a point. That he was the focal point wasn’t a surprise, but that he hadn’t scored in two games was. He was the team’s leading scorer during the regular season with 61 points in 69 games – three more than Gaudreau. During Game 3, that changed when Tkachuk scored a second-period goal on Mangipane’s centring pass.
Tkachuk’s claim to fame was his polarizing hit on Jets star Mark Scheifele, which Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice called intentionally dirty. The league disagreed. No penalty was called and, after a review, the NHL did not take any disciplinary action.
Whatever happens during the rest of this series, there’s little doubt that Tkachuk’s hit, which removed Scheifele from the series – intentional or not – will make him Jets Public Enemy No. 1 for many seasons to come.
Item Four: Elias Lindholm Has Points in His First Three Postseason Games
Lindholm is off to a flying start in the qualifying round with points in each of the first three games. He scored a power-play goal and an assist on two shots in Tuesday’s win. His scoring isn’t surprising considering that during the regular season, he scored 29 goals and 54 points.
Item Five: There’s Still Life in Aging Power Forward Milan Lucic
In a post before the postseason, I noted that Milan Lucic and Flames head coach Geoff Ward spent considerable time together with the Boston Bruins when Lucic was the epitome an NHL power forward. Ward seemed almost excited to be entering the postseason with Lucic on his team.
He had good reason for optimism. Lucic has proved his value to the team. During Game 3, he scored his first goal of the qualifying round by knocking home a power-play rebound late in the third period to push the Flames’ lead to 5-2. It was his only shot of the night, but he had three hits and two PIM.
Lucic can still bruise opponents and seems particularly focused during this postseason. He’s been on the scoresheet each of the first three games (scoring a goal and two assists) and has taken four penalties and dispensed nine hits. He might not be the player he once was, but he can still rise to the level of postseason play.
What’s Next for the Flames?
The two teams play again on Thursday. The Jets are in a tough spot because they’re missing Scheifelle and Laine. It might be too difficult for them to come back in the series.
The one chance they have is that goaltender Connor Hellebuyck hasn’t yet played up to his 2020 Vezina Trophy nomination. If he does, he’s capable of stealing a game. Otherwise, the Flames have the series edge with healthier players.