Winnipeg did not recover after losing center Mark Scheifele to an injury to his left leg in the first period. The Jets were beaten 33-18 and dominated by the Flames in the second period.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice accused the Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk for intentionally injuring the Winnipeg scorers co-leader, which Tkachuk denied.
“It was a dirty dirty kick to the back of the leg,” Maurice said. “He went after the back of the leg. He could have cut his Achilles (tendon). He could have ended the man’s career.
“It’s an absolutely dirty and disgusting blow. ”
Tkachuk has a reputation for playing to the limit, but the forward insisted that what happened to Scheifele was bad luck.
“It was such an accident and I feel bad about it,” Tkachuk said. “I hope he’s doing well because he’s one of the best players in this league and he’s great for the game. ”
Calgary Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan produces power play goals and Tobias Rieder scored shorthanded in the second. Andrew Mangiapane added an empty net objective.
“It was a very good all-round game, from the power play to the penalty to the goalkeeper, five on five, I thought we did a great job tonight,” said Gaudreau.
Andrew Copp countered for the Jets in the first period.
Cam Talbot earned his first playoff victory as Flame with 17 saves.
Whether the 33-year-old or David Rittich who would get the nod for the best of five series opener was the subject of much debate in Calgary and was not revealed until game time.
Talbot had less work than Trophy nominee Vezina and his Jets counterpart Connor Hellebuyck, who stopped 29 shots in the loss.
The Calgary goaltender, however, had three straight power play chances for the Jets in the third.
“Every save is important in a game like this, especially when the player on the other end of the phone is ready for the Vezina,” said Talbot. “You know he won’t give up too much.
“You can’t say enough about how we played in our Zone D tonight. I didn’t have to make a ton of Grade A saves tonight. ”
Scheifele’s potential loss would be devastating for Winnipeg’s Stanley Cup prospects. The Jets’ No.1 center has 73 points, including 44 assists this season.
Scheifele scored 14 playoff goals for the Jets en route to the Western Conference Finals two years ago.
“We don’t know how bad it is,” Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. ”
“Without doubt your best offensive player and save as many minutes. You cannot duplicate what he brings to our alignment. ”
The Flames (36-27-7) placed eighth in the conference and the Jets (37-28-6) ninth when the NHL suspended the season on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their only previous meeting was the Outdoor Heritage Classic on Oct. 26 in Regina, which Winnipeg won 2-1 in overtime.
Scheifele appeared to stuck his left leg under him while skating the boards, as Tkachuk applied his arm to Scheifele’s back.
As Scheifele writhed in pain, the Winnipeg bench led a flood of curses at Calgary. No penalty was requested on play at 5:41 of the opening period.
Tkachuk denied that his skate came in contact with Scheifele’s.
Wheeler summoned Tkachuk for punitive justice during the Flames forward’s next shift. Tkachuk obliged and the two punches exchanged.
Just 31 seconds after this scrap, Adam Lowry gave Copp a backhand behind the net to whip Talbot’s glove.
But the Jets have otherwise gathered little offense. Their power play was scoreless on seven occasions.
Winnipeg’s offense was further weakened in the third period when Patrik laine walked to the locker room after a collision with the Flames captain Mark Giordano.
Backlund buried a high shot from Hellebuyck’s blockers at 6:14 pm of the second period. Calgary’s Rieder put up a backhand on a shorthanded breakaway at 12:51.
The puck jumps on a pass from Sean Monahan, Gaudreau skillfully grabbed it to get a sharp angle shot and by Hellebuyck’s glove at 7:06.
In team Canada’s only qualifying round game, the Jets and Flames got their first taste of fanless playoff hockey.
The cold, cavernous interior of Rogers Place in Edmonton featured several large, bright screens casting color on a blue mesh covering the empty seats.
The slamming of the puck on the sticks and exhortations from the players’ benches were often the only sounds heard after faceoffs.
Calgary was the home team on Saturday and will be back in game two on Monday. Winnipeg is the home club in Tuesday’s third game.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on August 1, 2020.