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Special teams an issue when streaky Jets, Flames take the ice

Feb 17, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Winnipeg Jets forward Sean Monahan (23) skates against the Vancouver Canucks in the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets look to extend their winning streak to four games when they visit the streaky Calgary Flames on Monday.

After struggling through an 0-4-1 stretch that spanned the All-Star break, the Jets have rebounded with three straight victories, including Saturday’s 4-2 road win over the league-leading Vancouver Canucks. Defeating the NHL’s top team is always a major achievement, but the nature of the win signaled a breakout for Winnipeg’s offense.

In their eight games prior to facing Vancouver, the Jets had scored only nine goals and gone 0-for-21 on the power play. However, the power-play unit came to life with a 2-for-4 performance on Saturday, as both Gabriel Vilardi and Sean Monahan scored with the extra attacker.

“The power play has been kind of fighting it a little bit. … We’ve been working at it, and I thought we’ve had a few looks,” Monahan said. “But (we’re) starting to get some chemistry now and starting to be able to read off the guys, so I think things are going to start clicking here.”

Winnipeg’s penalty killers are an example of how a special teams unit can suddenly catch fire. After posting mediocre penalty-kill results over most of the season’s first three months, the Jets are 40-for-45 on the kill over their past 16 games, and a perfect 12-for-12 over their last four games.

The Flames, meanwhile, are 0-for-12 on the power play and 8-for-11 on the penalty kill in their past three games. The special teams units have struggled along with the rest of the club over Calgary’s 0-3-0 losing streak.

Calgary has been shut out twice in those three games, including a 5-0 loss on home ice to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Despite a 38-21 shots advantage, the Flames couldn’t solve goaltender James Reimer, or stop the Wings from padding their lead.

“When we let a goal in, we’ve got to find a way next shift to come out with energy or whatever that can be in different ways,” Flames captain Mikael Backlund said. “I feel like the last couple games we got a little too low after letting goals in, and they scored another one pretty quickly afterwards. So we’ve just got to stop that bleeding and focus on the next shift … and change the game.”

Momentum changes have been the story of the Flames’ inconsistent season. Calgary is 8-7-0 in its past 15 games, a stretch that has included two four-game winning streaks, a four-game losing streak, and the current three-game slide.

Goaltender Jacob Markstrom has usually been a pillar of stability, but Markstrom got a quick hook Saturday after allowing four goals on 12 shots.

Dan Vladar stopped eight of nine Detroit shots in relief and might be favored to start Monday if the Flames want to give Markstrom a breather. Vladar was making his first appearance after an eight-game absence due to a lower-body injury.

Because the Jets also play on Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild, goalies Connor Hellebuyck and Laurent Brossoit likely will split the back-to-back starts in some order.

Flames forward Jakob Pelletier (upper-body injury) and Jets forward Morgan Barron (illness) are both questionable for Monday.

The two teams last met in the season opener on Oct. 11, when the Flames recorded a 5-3 victory in Calgary.

–Field Level Media

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