His presence was felt quite quickly as the league’s best forward chipped in with a goal in the Oilers’ 5-3 road victory over the Jets from Bell MTS Place on a rainy Thursday evening.
Winnipeg opened the scoring on a nifty play from CJ Suess, who showcased some high-level hand-eye coordination in batting a Joona Luoto cross-ice feed past Mike Smith and into the Oilers’ net. The 1-0 goal was Suess’ second of the preseason.
Edmonton answered back with less than five minutes to play, as Tomas Jurco capitalized on a brutal Mathieu Perreault defensive zone turnover. James Neal picked up the lone assist on the play. Winnipeg led 6-4 in the shots department after 20 minutes of play.
Perreault’s run of bad luck continued early in the second, as the veteran forward found himself in the sin bin on a high sticking minor. Just 32 seconds into the penalty, Connor McDavid was gifted with an easy cross-ice tap in, giving the Oilers a 2-1 lead just one minute into the frame. Neal and Jurco collected their second points of the game on the play.
Winnipeg tied the game back up on a Tucker Poolman garbage goal on the heels of a goalmouth scramble just four minutes after Edmonton’s go-ahead marker. Poolman was back at again, picking up the secondary assist on a Gabriel Bourque goal, made possible by a strong Mathieu Perreault forecheck. Through 40 minutes of play, the Jets led the Oilers 3-2, while also taking a hold of the shot lead 18-11.
The Jets, however, squandered their lead once and for all in the third frame, giving up three goals to the Oilers in a span of 10 minutes in the third. Ethan Bear of nearby Whitewood, Saskatchewan collected two markers in the final period of play, while Jurco added another on a mid-period power play, doing the Jets in by a count of 5-3.
Bear had two goals, Jurco had two goals and an assist, while Neal and Leon Draisaitl each had two helpers in the victory. Poolman led the way for Winnipeg with a goal and an assist. Despite heavily outshooting the visitors 18-11 through two periods, the Jets gave up a whopping 15 shots in the third period, while counteracting with just three, ultimately losing the shot battle 26-21. Connor Hellebuyck made 21 stops, while Mike Smith turned aside 18 pucks.
With the loss, Winnipeg is now 2-3-1 in the preseason, and will look to finish off the exhibition season with a .500 record, as the Jets take on the Minnesota Wild at 1:00 PM Sunday at Excel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The final preseason tune up can be viewed live on TSN3.