May 27th, 2024

Gabe Vilardi’s hat trick helps Jets clinch playoff berth with 5-2 win over Flames

By Jim Bender, The Canadian Press on April 4, 2024.

Winnipeg Jets' Gabriel Vilardi (13) scores on Calgary Flames goaltender Dustin Wolf (32) as Oliver Kylington (58) defends during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, April 4, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

WINNIPEG – Gabe Vilardi scored a hat trick to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 5-2 victory over the Calgary Flames on Thursday.

The win clinched a playoff berth for Winnipeg and eliminated Calgary from the wild-card race.

Vilardi scored his third goal into an empty net with 1:04 left in the game. Nikolaj Ehlers, who had a goal and an assist, and Tyler Toffoli also scored for the Jets (46-24-6).

Martin Pospisil and MacKenzie Weegar scored for the Flames (34-36-5).

Connor Hellebuyck stopped 31 of 33 shots for Winnipeg at Canada Life Centre.

Dustin Wolf made 41 saves for Calgary.

It was the final contest of a five-game homestand for Winnipeg.

Calgary opened the scoring on the power play early in the game. Just 31 seconds after Ehlers took a tripping penalty, Weegar scored on a screened shot from the point. Jonathan Huberdeau and Andrei Kuzmenko had dug the puck out from behind the net, out-battling both Jets defencemen.

Wolf, who faced 17 shots in the first period, robbed Tyler Toffoli on a backhand from alone in front before the Jets scored their first goal.

Winnipeg knotted the score 1-1 on the power play. With Kevn Ronney off for tripping during a penalty kill, Vilardi converted a perfect pass from Kyle Connor alone in front of Wolf. Josh Morrissey also assisted.

The Jets took a 2-1 lead less than two minutes after scoring their first goal. Ehlers converted a perfect pass from Cole Perfetti and fired a quick shot past Wolf.

The Flames took advantage of Winnipeg’s sloppy play in the second to tie the score 2-2 midway through the middle frame. Pospisil deflected Daniil Miromanov’s point shot past a screened Hellebuyck. Weegar also assisted.

Toffoli had just restored Winnipeg’s one-goal lead with its second power-play goal of the game. With Nikita Okhotiuk off for hooking, Toffoli took a pass from Namestnikov and swept the puck past Wolf. Ehlers also assisted as the Jets took a 3-2 lead into the third period.

In the last minute of the second period, Pospisil elbowed Morrissey in the head. After a review demanded by Jets coach Rick Bowness, Pospisil was given a five-minute major penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct instead of the minor infraction originally called.

Vilardi scored his second of the game when he pounced on a Josh Morrissey rebound and plopped the puck in the net to give the Jets a 4-2 lead almost midway through the third period.

NOTES – Jets winger Nino Niederreiter is out for about a week after suffering a gash to his leg from a skate during Monday’s game against the L.A. Kings “¦ Toffoli returned to the lineup after missing Monday’s match due to illness “¦ Calgary was without defenceman Joel Handy, who was injured during Tuesday’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks “¦ Connor was just one power play goal away from passing Bryan Little (58) for third on the franchise’s all-time list .., Connor, whose grandfather died from Parkinson’s disease disease and whose father was diagnosed with it 10 years ago, took part in the ceremonial puck drop for the Parkinson’s Awareness Game.

UP NEXT – The Jets will travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild on Saturday afternoon.

The Flames will return to Calgary to host the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 4, 2024.

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