Laine overpowers Flames in Jets overtime win
Calgary Flames' Milan Lucic (17) gets checked by Winnipeg Jets' Neal Pionk (4) as Patrik Laine (29) looks for the puck during opening game second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
WINNIPEG -- Patrik Laine seemed to be on a mission to silence his critics, at least for the time being, with a three point performance on Thursday, including the overtime game winner, sealing Winnipeg’s 4-3 win against the Calgary Flames.
Much was made about whether emotions would spill over to Thursday night’s matchup after Calgary eliminated the Jets in the qualifying round of last year’s NHL Playoffs in Edmonton, which also saw Mark Scheifele’s series end early in the first game after he took a controversial hit from Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk. Laine also left that game with a hand injury and never returned.
Both players made up lost time combining for four points as Scheifele buried a Nikolaj Ehlers rebound 34 seconds into the second period, while Laine scored a pair and added a nice assist, with a cross-ice pass to Kyle Connor, who one-timed the game-tying goal on the power play, which set the stage for Laine’s overtime heroics.
However, Laine wasn’t about to celebrate his early success after the game, instead focusing on what he and the team need to improve on to keep things rolling.
“Three points is not always going to tell the whole story, there are a lot of things I need to work on,” Laine said.
“There were a couple of times where I slept a little bit but that was definitely one of the better games with the puck with my line mates, I think we clicked pretty well.”
Laine even showed a little more grit than usual late in the second period.
With a goal and an assist already under his belt, Laine tried for the ‘Gordie Howe hat trick’ dropping the gloves in an attempt to fight Tkachuk in scrum he started with Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin, who delivered a vicious looking cross check to the back of Kyle Connor, sending him into the boards and giving him a bloody nose.
“If you hit one of our top guys like that, somebody needs to step up,” Laine said.
“Now was my time and there’s been a bunch of guys who have stepped up for me so just a normal situation.”
It’s safe to say Laine was not happy about the referee giving him a two-minute minor roughing penalty on the play.
“I was pissed because that would have been a Gordie Howe hat trick,” Laine said.
“The one time I drop my gloves I get a two-minute penalty, that’s kind of embarrassing.”
Laine’s night left a good impression on new line mate Paul Stastny, who didn’t seem surprised by his three points or his willingness to drop the gloves, as rare as that may be.
“Nothing surprises me with him,” Stastny said.
“I’ve always loved his game and love when he gets engaged, he’s such a physical specimen and you don’t see it because he’s just so smooth out there but he’s so strong on the puck.”
Before Thursday’s opener, Jets head coach Paul Maurice had talked about Laine’s need to be engaged, and after the game he told reporters he’s never seen Laine work as hard as he did over the past two weeks at training camp, and says his performance was the result of that.
“What he got tonight, he earned,” Maurice said.
“He didn’t get lucky, he didn’t have a bunch of good bounces for him or anything like that, he just worked and worked and worked. For him to get down the ice the way he did, that’s a fit guy, that’s a guy who’s been pushing himself for two weeks after a good summer of training.
“He’s a very driven young man, he wants to be great, and sometimes you have to learn how that unfolds.”
Despite this season being a jam-packed, nearly four-month marathon, with numerous back-to-back games on the schedule, the Jets have a few days to prepare for their second game of the season.
The team is off Friday before preparing for a tilt with the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Monday.