The Calgary Flames and Winnipeg Jets had little history between them because they’d only met once in this truncated NHL regular season.
But playoff animosity didn’t take long to brew in Calgary’s 4-1 win over the Jets to start their qualifying round series Saturday in Edmonton.
Winnipeg didn’t recover from losing centre Mark Scheifele to a left-leg injury in the first period. The Jets were outshot 33-18 and dominated by the Flames in the second period.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice accused Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk of intentionally injuring Winnipeg’s scoring co-leader, which Tkachuk denied.
WATCH | Scheifele leaves game with injury:
“It was a filthy, 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 filthy, disgusting hit.”
Tkachuk’s reputation is one of playing on the edge, but the forward insisted what happened to Scheifele was bad luck.
“It was such an accident and I feel terrible about it,” Tkachuk said. “I hope he’s OK because he’s a top player in this league and he’s great for the game.”
The potential loss of Scheifele would be devastating for Winnipeg’s Stanley Cup prospects. The Jets’ No. 1 centre had 73 points, including a team-leading 44 assists this season.
Gaudreau, Monahan, Rieder lead special teams
Scheifele scored 14 playoffs goals for the Jets en route to the Western Conference final two years ago.
“We don’t know the severity of it,” Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“Arguably your top offensive player and log so many minutes. You can’t replicate what he brings to our lineup.”
Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan produced power-play goals and Tobias Rieder scored shorthanded in the second. Andrew Mangiapane added an empty-net goal.
“It was a really good complete game from power play to penalty kill to goaltending, five on five I thought we did a great job tonight,” Gaudreau said.
WATCH | Reider scores short-handed goal:
Andrew Copp countered for the Jets in the first period.
Cam Talbot earned his first playoff win as a Flame with 17 saves.
Whether it was the 33-year-old or David Rittich who would get the nod for the opener of the best-of-five series was much-debated in Calgary, and not revealed until game time.
WATCH | Jets vs. Flames series preview:
Talbot had less work than Vezina Trophy nominee and Jets counterpart Connor Hellebuyck, who stopped 29 shots in the loss.
Calgary’s goaltender weathered three straight Jets power-play chances in the third, however.
“Every save is important in a game like that especially when the guy at the other end is up for the Vezina,” Talbot said. “You know he’s not going to give up too many.
“You can’t say enough about how well we played in our d-zone tonight. I didn’t have to make a ton of Grade A saves tonight.”