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Vilardi pots hat trick, Jets clinch playoff spot with 5-2 win over Flames

For the sixth time in the last seven seasons, the Winnipeg Jets have clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Gabriel Vilardi scored his first career hat trick and the Jets (46-24-6) beat the Calgary Flames 5-2 at Canada Life Centre Thursday night to end their five-game homestand on a two-game winning streak.

Nikolaj Ehlers and Tyler Toffoli also scored goals for the Jets who knocked the Flames out of playoff contention with the victory.

Winnipeg becomes the fourth team in the Western Conference to secure a playoff berth.

“It’s nice,” said head coach Rick Bowness. “We didn’t wait until the second last game of the year like we did last year, but there was never any doubt in my mind that we’d clinch that.

“It’s nice to put that behind us and now we push forward.”

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For Vilardi, it’ll be his first time experiencing the whiteout.

“I’ve seen it on the TV,” said Vilardi. “It looks pretty fun. I’m excited to be apart of it, obviously with them cheering for me. So it’ll be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it.”

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Gabriel Vilardi Interview – Apr. 4'

RAW: Winnipeg Jets Gabriel Vilardi Interview – Apr. 4

With the victory the Jets match last season’s win total, but with six games left to go, there’s still plenty of kinks to iron out after just ending a six-game losing streak. They outshot the Flames 17-8 in the first, only to let the Flames back in the game in the second period.

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“We get spread out too much,” Bowness said. “We make it too easy for the opposition to come at us cause we’re spread out. We’re not stopping and starting on puck battles. Basically, it comes down to that. We’re just making it too easy for the opposition to come at us, and we just take our foot off the pedal for a little bit.”

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Josh Morrissey was leveled by an elbow from Martin Pospisil late in the second period. He received a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct and will likely get a call from the league for supplemental discipline.

“Like, in the moment I didn’t feel like it was dirty,” said Morrissey. “I just felt like I got smoked. That’s my fault, but not my fault, but it is part of the game. I just don’t want to turn into it. When I watched it after he kinda extends the elbow.”

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Josh Morrissey Interview – Apr. 4'

RAW: Winnipeg Jets Josh Morrissey Interview – Apr. 4

The Jets didn’t score on the ensuing five-minute man advantage but finished the night 2-for-4 on the power play.

Jets captain Adam Lowry left the game in the third period after a heavy hit. He was removed from the game by the concussion spotters but Bowness said he’s fine and Lowry was surprised to be placed in concussion protocol.

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It was the first time the Jets beat the Flames this season after losing the first two meetings.

After going down 1-0 early thanks to a MacKenzie Weegar goal, the Jets bounced back with two goals later in the period, one from Vilardi on the power play and another from Ehlers, his 23rd of the season.

The Flames tied it in the second on a Daniil Miromanov goal, but the Jets struck again with the man advantage before the intermission as Toffoli scored his 31st of the campaign.

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Vilardi added two more in the third period, including an empty-netter for his hat-trick, giving him 19 goals on the season.

Ehlers had an assist along with his goal, while Morrissey picked up a pair of assists for Winnipeg. Connor Hellebuyck made 31 saves for the victory in net.

Colin Miller returned to the lineup after six straight games as a healthy scratch. He replaced Nate Schmidt.

The Jets remain third in the Central Division, four points back of the Colorado Avalanche, who also won Thursday, and still six points clear of Nashville.

Winnipeg now hits the road for four straight games, beginning Saturday afternoon in Minnesota against the Wild. The pregame show begins at 1 p.m. on 680 CJOB with puck drop just after 3 p.m.

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Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Interview – Apr. 4'

RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Interview – Apr. 4

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