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Winnipeg Jets' Dylan Samberg and Calgary Flames' Rasmus Andersson collide during the second period in Winnipeg. The Jets won 5-2 on April 4, 2024.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

Gabe Vilardi’s hat trick helped the Jets clinch a berth in the NHL playoffs. And now, he’s looking forward to Winnipeg’s famous playoff Whiteout.

Vilardi’s three goals lifted Winnipeg over the Calgary Flames 5-2 on Thursday before 14,055 fans at Canada Life Centre.

“A great night for me, but a better night for the team to make the playoff,” Vilardi said. “Still got a long way to go, a lot of work that needs to be done still. But definitely a good night.”

Vilardi has seen the Whiteout on TV but never experienced it in person.

“It looks pretty fun,” he said. “I’m excited to be a part of it with them cheering for me. It will be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it.”

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 Winnipeg (46-24-6).

Connor Hellebuyck stopped 31 of 33 shots for the win.

“You play 82 games to try to get an opportunity to be a part of the playoffs and it’s just, I guess, an invitation to the dance,” said Josh Morrissey, who had a pair of assists for the Jets. “It’s exciting to get in and just excited to see this building, the Whiteout again and that energy that we all experienced.

“Hopefully, we can get our game in top shape and be ready to hit the ground running.”

MacKenzie Weegar and Daniil Miramanov scored for Calgary (34-36-5). Dustin Wolf made 41 saves for the Flames, who were eliminated from the wild-card race by the loss.

“It sucks,” Weegar said. “I mean, everybody wants to chase the Cup, that’s what it’s all about. Some teams are ripping it up right now to go on a big playoff run and some teams are looking out, which is disappointing.”

Weegar felt bad for Wolf.

“He’s a special goaltender,” he said. “He battles hard, he’s a competitor. He’s a confident kid and they brought it to him tonight.

“He stood tall for us. It’s too bad we couldn’t get that victory for him because I thought he played a really strong game tonight.”

Vilardi scored his second of the game when he pounced on a Morrissey rebound and plopped the puck in the net to give the Jets a 4-2 lead almost midway through 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 for elbowing and a game misconduct instead of the minor infraction originally called. Morrissey had no issue with the hit.

Toffoli had given Winnipeg a 3-2 lead on the power play. With Nikita Okhotiuk off for hooking, Toffoli took a pass from Vladislav Namestnikov and swept the puck past Wolf. Ehlers also assisted.

Earlier in the second, Miromanov scored on a screened shot from the point to knot the score at 2-2.

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.

Winnipeg had knotted the score 1-1 on the power play. With the Kevin Rooney off for tripping, Vilardi converted a perfect pass from Kyle Connor alone in front of Wolf. Morrissey also assisted.

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.


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.

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