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Gabe Vilardi’s hat trick helps Jets clinch playoff berth with 5-2 win over Flames

Gabe Vilardi scored a hat trick to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday.

The win clinched a playoff berth for Winnipeg and eliminated Calgary from the wild-card race.

Vilardi scored his third goal into an empty net with 1:04 left in the game. Nikolaj Ehlers, who had a goal and an assist, and Tyler Toffoli also scored for the Jets (46-24-6).

Martin Pospisil and MacKenzie Weegar scored for the Flames (34-36-5).

Connor Hellebuyck stopped 31 of 33 shots for Winnipeg at Canada Life Centre.

Dustin Wolf made 41 saves for Calgary.

It was the final contest of a five-game homestand for Winnipeg.

Calgary opened the scoring on the power play early in the game. Just 31 seconds after Ehlers took a tripping penalty, Weegar scored on a screened shot from the point. Jonathan Huberdeau and Andrei Kuzmenko had dug the puck out from behind the net, out-battling both Jets defencemen.

Wolf, who faced 17 shots in the first period, robbed Tyler Toffoli on a backhand from alone in front before the Jets scored their first goal.

Winnipeg knotted the score 1-1 on the power play. With Kevn Ronney off for tripping during a penalty kill, Vilardi converted a perfect pass from Kyle Connor alone in front of Wolf. Josh Morrissey also assisted.

The Jets took a 2-1 lead less than two minutes after scoring their first goal. Ehlers converted a perfect pass from Cole Perfetti and fired a quick shot past Wolf.

The Flames took advantage of Winnipeg’s sloppy play in the second to tie the score 2-2 midway through the middle frame. Pospisil deflected Daniil Miromanov’s point shot past a screened Hellebuyck. Weegar also assisted.

Toffoli had just restored Winnipeg’s one-goal lead with its second power-play goal of the game. With Nikita Okhotiuk off for hooking, Toffoli took a pass from Namestnikov and swept the puck past Wolf. Ehlers also assisted as the Jets took a 3-2 lead into the third period.

In the last minute of the second period, Pospisil elbowed Morrissey in the head. After a review demanded by Jets coach Rick Bowness, Pospisil was given a five-minute major penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct instead of the minor infraction originally called.

Vilardi scored his second of the game when he pounced on a Josh Morrissey rebound and plopped the puck in the net to give the Jets a 4-2 lead almost midway through the third period.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 4, 2024.

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