Jacob Markstrom’s 37-save shutout performance in a 2-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday is exactly what the Calgary Flames were looking for when they signed him via free agency.
The Flames, who snapped a three-game losing skid with the win, are looking for more of the same when they visit the Winnipeg Jets on Monday in the first of three meetings in four nights in Winnipeg.
The Flames have struggled to find a true No. 1 goalie since Miikka Kiprusoff’s scintillating performances before he retired after the 2012-13 season, and that’s why Markstrom was lured with a six-year, $36-million contract. He rewarded them with a brilliant performance in Montreal.
“When your goalie plays like that, you’re not going to lose. Ever,” said captain Mark Giordano. “Obviously, we’ve been on a little bit of a slide here. Guys were blocking shots and we were invested emotionally, and he was our backbone out there. We’ll take those goaltending performances whenever we can get them.”
Goals by Johnny Gaudreau — who has a point in every game this season giving him a seven-game point-scoring streak — and Mikael Backlund provided the offensive attack, but unquestionably Markstrom was the difference.
“When the shots were coming, I was seeing the puck,” said Markstrom, who recorded his second shutout of the season and celebrated his 31st birthday on Sunday. “When I didn’t, our guys were blocking shots and clearing rebounds. That was a big win for us to come back here after some games where we haven’t been happy and satisfied with the results. It’s a big win for us and something we can build on.”
The Jets, who have lost two of three games, will be looking to rebound after Saturday night’s disappointing 4-1 home loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Coach Paul Maurice made no bones about why his team — which is yet to have newly acquired young center Pierre-Luc Dubois in the lineup as he goes through the quarantine protocol — was defeated.
“Those were our poorest back-to-back periods that we’ve had this year,” said Maurice, who obviously expects a better effort against the Flames. “The only hard lesson in that one is the team that worked the hardest won. They deserved to win that hockey game. We got beat is the cleanest way to put it.”
Among the issues was Winnipeg’s lack of offensive execution. The Jets managed only 11 shots on goal over the final two periods. Having had four days between games, the Jets should have been rested and ready but instead struggled to find any momentum.
“We were a little disjointed again and we’re getting away from some of the things that gave us success,” said captain Blake Wheeler. “We’re going to have a few more of these long breaks this year. We have to learn how to come out of them.”
The poor play after a rest isn’t the only issue facing Wheeler and his line. In eight games, the Jets have surrendered 15 goals during five-on-five play, and Wheeler has been on the ice for 10 of them. It’s not a good sign when your top line is being outplayed by the opposition’s big guns.
“We’ve got some guys on our back end that can be a part of that, too,” Maurice said. “I don’t feel that they’re cheating the defensive game to go on offence. As a line since they’ve been together, they had stretches of pretty good hockey offensively, but their defensive game hasn’t been great, yet.”
On the flip side for Winnipeg is the point-scoring run for third-line center Adam Lowry, who has found the scoresheet in a career-best six consecutive games.
–Field Level Media