On a night where both teams iced veteran-laden rosters, it was the stars of the Winnipeg Jets that shone the brightest.
The top line of Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele combined for four goals, while David Rittich turned aside all 37 shots he faced as the Jets took care of the Calgary Flames 5-0 in their penultimate preseason game.
Connor notched a pair and Ehlers had a three point night with a goal and two assists in their final home exhibition contest.
“We haven’t played much together,” said Ehlers. “We’re still trying to figure each other out, and creating that chemistry. I think that we played well tonight, but there’s a lot of things we can clean up with turnovers in the o-zone.”
The Jets special teams were in mid-season form going 3-for-5 on the man advantage, while the penalty kill was a perfect 6-for-6 on the night. But the Jets spent too much time in the penalty box and surrendered a lot of shots.
“5-on-5 there’s a lot of good things,” said head coach Rick Bowness. “There’s some things we got to tighten up. Some mistakes with the puck that we can clean up. The six penalties we have to clean up for sure. That’s just way too many again.
“All you’re doing is just putting their best players on the ice and it’s the penalties, and it’s the timing of those penalties that we got to clean that up, and we won’t be letting the opposition get so many shots on net. So, those are things we’ll keep working on.”
The man nicknamed ‘Big Save Dave’ lived up to his nickname. Rittich was tested early, but managed to get the shutout against his former team.
“I’m feeling great,” Rittich said. “It’s great if you perform well, and you get saves. Obviously, if you get (the) shutout, it’s nice, but I don’t really care.
“The most important thing for me is we got (the) win and that’s all (that) matters.”
The first period came and went without any goals. Both sides had one power play and a handful of scoring chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
The best opportunity belonged to Connor, who was sprung on a breakaway thanks to a Flames turnover and a Calgary defender getting tangled up with a referee, but Connor was denied by Dan Vladar.
But Connor solved the Flames’ goalie in the second on the power play. The team’s leading scorer from last year finished off a give-and-go with Sam Gagner to open the scoring at the 8:28 mark.
The power play did not end, however, because Calgary had too many men on the ice when the goal was scored.
Winnipeg double-dipped just 44 seconds later when Scheifele redirected a perfectly-placed pass that whizzed off the stick of Ehlers like a bullet.
The Flames got a power play chance of their own just a few minutes later but as the penalty expired, the puck found its way right to the stick of Dominic Toninato as he stepped out of the box. With all kinds of time and space, Toninato made no mistake, beating Calgary goalie Dustin Wolf five-hole to make it 3-0.
Not long after another Flames power play, the Jets’ big guns struck again. Ehlers picked off a Noah Hanifin pass in Calgary’s end and found Connor alone in front of the net for a tap-in.
After a sleepy start to the third period, Scheifele tripped up Nikita Zadorov and was going to get a penalty, but then Zadorov got up and cross-checked Scheifele in the face. The ensuing scrum put the Jets up a man and they once again made Calgary pay.
After some crisp puck movement, Gagner fed Ehlers who beat Wolf high from a tough angle to make it 5-0 midway through the third.
At that point, all that needed to be decided was whether Rittich would be able to secure the shutout.
With 2:17 left, Nazem Kadri was called for boarding as he caught Cole Perfetti from a dangerous angle. That allowed Winnipeg to run out the clock and ensure Rittich of the goose egg.
The two sides will meet again Friday night in Calgary to wrap up the preseason. The pregame show begins on 680 CJOB at 6 p.m., with puck drop just after 8 p.m.
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