The Calgary Flames rode superior special teams to a 4-1 win over demoralized Winnipeg Jets to start their qualifying-round series Saturday.
The Jets didn’t recover from losing centre Mark Scheifele to injury early in the first period. They were outshot 33-18 and dominated by the Flames in the second period.
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.
Andrew Copp countered for the Jets in the first period.
WATCH | Scheifele leaves game with injury:
Cam Talbot made 17 saves for the win in his first playoff start with the Flames.
Whether it was the 33-year-old or David Rittich who would get the nod for Game 1 of the best-of-five series was much-debated in Calgary, and not revealed until game time.
Talbot had less work than Vezina Trophy nominee and Jets counterpart Connor Hellebuyck, although the Flames goaltender weathered three straight Jets power-play chances in the third.
Hellebuyck stopped 29 shots in the loss.
The potential loss of season scoring co-leader Scheifele would be devastating for Winnipeg’s Stanley Cup prospects.
The Flames (36-27-7) ranked eighth in the conference and the Jets (37-28-6) ninth when the NHL suspended the season March 12.
The only all-Canadian matchup in the NHL’s qualifying round had little history from the 2019-20 season.
WATCH | Reider scores short-handed goal:
Their lone meeting was the Oct. 26 outdoor Heritage Classic in Regina, which Winnipeg won 2-1 in overtime.
But animosity brewed in the first period when Scheifele went awkwardly into the boards at 5:41.
He appeared to jam his left leg under him as Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk applied his arm to Scheifele’s back.
Scheifele injury leads to fight
As Scheifele writhed in pain, Winnipeg’s bench directed a stream of expletives at Calgary’s.
Tkachuk’s skate appeared to make contact with Scheifele’s. No penalty was called on the play.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler summoned Tkachuk for retributive justice on the Flames forward’s next shift. Tkachuk obliged and the two traded punches.
Just 31 seconds after that scrap, Adam Lowry dished a backhand from behind the net out front to Copp to whip over Talbot’s glove.
But Winnipeg otherwise mustered little offence with a power play held scoreless on seven chances.
WATCH | Jets vs. Flames series preview:
Jets winger Patrik Laine headed to the dressing room early in the third after a collision with Flames captain Mark Giordano.
Calgary went 2 for 4 with a man advantage.
Backlund buried a high shot on Hellebuyck’s blocker side at 18:14. Calgary’s Rieder shelved a backhand on a short-handed breakaway at 12:51.
The puck bobbling on a pass from Sean Monahan, Gaudreau deftly corralled it to get a sharp-angled shot away and by Hellebuyck’s glove at 7:06 to pull Calgary even.
The Jets and Flames got their first taste of playoff hockey without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cold, cavernous interior of Edmonton’s Rogers Place was tarted up with multiple large light screens throwing colour onto screens covering empty seats.
The clack of the puck on sticks and exhortations from the players’ benches were often the only sounds heard after faceoffs.
Calgary was the home team Saturday and will be again for Game 2 on Monday. Winnipeg is the home club in Tuesday’s Game 3.