On Tuesday, the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets met at Bell MTS Place for the second of two-straight games between the western Canadian rivals. After seeing the visitors take the first game on a buzzer beater on Sunday evening, Winnipeg was hoping to return to its winning ways in the third game of a season-long seven-game homestand.
Leaning heavily on its second line of Nikolaj Ehlers, Paul Stastny and Andrew Copp, the Jets put up a strong second half of the game after once again falling behind its opponent – which has become a major theme in the early going this season. Both Ehlers and Copp put up four-point nights, while Connor Hellebuyck earned his fourth win of the season in Winnipeg’s 6-4 victory of Edmonton.
“Our mentality of just staying in the battle and knowing we’re better than that,” Ehlers said post-game on what helped his team remain in the game. “That first period wasn’t good. Bucky gave us a chance to stay in the game and we got the two points, We’re happy with that, will probably take the day off tomorrow and look forward to the next game.”
Despite feeling much like a marathon, the first period flew by as a sprint on Tuesday, with the two North Division teams combining for five goals in the frame. With power plays accounting for four of the five goals, Edmonton walked away with a 3-2 lead, despite only shooting seven pucks on a rather shaky Hellebuyck.
With Stastny in the box early for tripping, reigning Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl ripped a hard wrist shot into the Jets’ net just 32 seconds into the man advantage. Three minutes later, Darnell Nurse found himself in the sin bin for hooking. Copp made him pay with a quick power play strike of his own, knotting the game up at ones just 36 seconds into Winnipeg’s first power play.
“I see all that open ice, and I see my linemate playing in the perfect and it makes that pass so much easier,” Copp said. “It’s just kind of a theme, I guess. That play is a general theme of how we’ve done and when we’ve gotten to those areas, we’ve gotten to the net hard, we’ve put the puck in the net on our opportunities and have been able to change some games for us.”
With Jets forwards Adam Lowry, Copp, Ehlers, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele all riding four-game point streaks heading into the game, three of the five offensive drivers kept their streaks alive off the first goal by the home team.
Five minutes later, Adam Larsson retook the lead by putting a low point shot past Hellebuyck, blocker side. With 9:10 to go, Mason Appleton slashed Kyle Turris and the Oilers’ potent power play once again made Winnipeg pay. This time it was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with yet another long-range shot that found its way past Hellebuyck, on what seemed like a clean read. Nuge’s fourth of the season took just 26 seconds of power play time, improving Edmonton’s power play to 2/2 in the frame.
Just seconds after an Adam Larsson high sticking minor had expired, Nikolaj Ehlers began an offensive zone cycle play with Adam Lowry, who found winger Mathieu from behind the goal line. No. 85 made no mistake one-timing it past Oilers’ tendy Mikko Koskinen from the middle of the circle for his first goal of the season. Although it wasn’t considered a power play goal, the Jets’ man advantage certainly had a role in setting up the goal.
Through 20 minutes of play, Edmonton had a 3-2 lead while trailing Winnipeg 11-7 in the shot department. A fast-paced second period provided a number of scoring opportunities on both sides of the coin, but despite all the effort, the closest the Jets came to finding the twine was an early-period Mark Scheifele post on a three-on-one. Zack Kassian just missed on a sweet leg-kicking breakaway move late in the frame. Winnipeg maintained its shot lead through two periods of play, adding nine shots in the second, compared to eight by the visitors for a 20-15 lead through 40 minutes.
A span of 3:27 of the third period sealed the game for Winnipeg, with the Jets scoring three goals from the 3:19 mark to 6:46. First, Paul Stastny set Ehlers up for his team-leading fifth goal of the season on easy tap-in, after cutting across the Oilers’ defensive zone on a rush up ice. Following Ehlers’ strike, the same line got back on the scoreboard again, this time with Ehlers dishing, and Stastny finishing. The centreman’s second goal of the season came at 5:26 of the third period.
“Nikolaj is just that kind of dynamic piece to the line that lets those two guys do their work,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “He’s one of the rare players that I’ve seen that has the ability to seemingly develop his offensive game from a defensive starting point. There’s not a lot of guys that come in who are defenders that develop an offensive game. We seem to spend most of our time taking offensive guys and trying to get them to defend a little bit. But he’s developing an offensive game that makes him a fantastic, two-way player.”
Just 1:20 later, Lowry found his fourth marker of the season, redirecting a Derek Forbort shot past Koskinen as a bit of insurance. As it turned out the Jets would need it as Edmonton opted to make it close.
With Mikko Koskinen on the bench for an extra attacker, superstar Connor McDavid cut towards the Jets net and ripped a wrist shot top corner right past Connor Hellebuyck with 1:50 left to play.
But with 52 seconds to play, Andrew Copp sealed the deal with a half-ice, empty-net strike, restoring Winnipeg’s two-goal lead, and helping the home team to its fifth win of the season.
After a difficult start in which Hellebuyck stopped just three of six shots, the Jets netminder bounced back, turning aside 21 of 24 shots on the night. He improved his record to 4-1-0. Koskinen ended his evening with 27 saves on 32 Jets shots.
Winnipeg now has until Saturday evening to get ready for the team’s next test, coming at home to Vancouver. In another late-night start, the Jets will look to improve upon its 5-2-0 record in the team’s second-straight Saturday featuring a 9:00 PM start time. The game can be seen live on Sportsnet.