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Calgary Flames

Flames Come Through in Must-Win Collision with Jets

The Calgary Flames rebounded from a tough loss 24 hours earlier to beat the Winnipeg Jets in a must-win game to keep their NHL playoffs alive.



For one night, at least, the Calgary Flames knew what it would feel like to be in the 2023 NHL playoffs. 

They've been in must-win mode for weeks, but it's never quite the same as what was essentially an elimination game in Winnipeg. 

And it showed in a massive 3-1 Flames win. One thing that was palpable was the emotion — for both sides. In the second period, Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom, starting again 24 hours after a crushing loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, showed it with a blocker to Pierre-Luc Dubois' head. (They have a bit of history this year already with Markstrom tripping him in a game in Calgary earlier in the season).

"It's emotions out there," Markstrom told reporters after the game. "I got a penalty, he got a penalty. We got another one for roughing. The guys did a great job with the (penalty) kill."

With 34 saves and a .971 save percentage, Markstrom channeled his emotions in the best way possible to keep the Flames' playoff hopes alive in spite of the long odds they face. Without his timely stops in recent weeks, they'd already be planning their off-season vacations. 

"Obviously still pissed off from the other night," Markstrom said, alluding to the loss to the Hawks. "I think it fed into that a little bit coming into this game. More emotions than usual."

He'll likely start every game until they're eliminated. Head coach Darryl Sutter alluded to it as many questioned his decision to keep rolling out Markstrom and the same group of forwards despite the back-to-back situations. He said he needed "his ace." And it's tough to argue after Markstrom's performance in the most intense game of the season so far. 

"Marky's been a rock for us for a couple months now," Sutter said. "We're into six of it now."

To give him enough support to get the win, the Flames got goals from Andrew Mangiapane in the first, and then a pair in the third from Walker Duehr and Nikita Zadorov — who also had a goal waived off in the first period because of a review for goaltender interference. 

It was the kind of simplified but intense hockey that pays off down the stretch and into the playoffs. And that's the vibe the game had, too, although Sutter wasn't ready to go there yet. Mostly because they're not there yet. The Calgary Flames' regulation win put them in a tie with the Jets for the final Western Conference wildcard spot. 

But the Jets own the tiebreaker with more regulation wins. 

"Well, we're not in it yet. If we didn't win tonight, if you lose in overtime or a shootout, that's a big swing, too," Sutter said. "All we did is close the gap."

Winnipeg plays Nashville on Saturday, with the Flames heading to Vancouver for another game against the Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada. With everything on the line … again.