For the second time in three days, the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers renewed acquaintances from Rogers Place in Alberta. After the two teams combined for 11 goals on Monday evening – in a game that Winnipeg won 6-5 – Wednesday’s matchup featured 11 minor penalties.
Although it was another close game, it didn’t quite live up to the Jets’ most recent 6-4 and 6-5 victories over the Oilers in the teams’ previous two matchups. Winnipeg allowed Edmonton’s first two shots into the net and played catchup ever since. Despite maintaining a shot advantage and keeping things close for the majority of the game thereafter, the Jets ultimately fell 3-2.
Just one quarter of the way into the 2020-21 season, Wednesday’s showing was Winnipeg’s fifth one-goal loss of the year, and fourth in which the team failed to collect a single point. With the entire season being played within the Canadian North Division, one may begin to wonder just how many one-goal, two-point games that the Jets can manage give up before falling out of the playoff picture for good.
Hold for a 21-second span in the early going, the Jets dominated the opening frame. But from the time between 16:15 and 15:54 of the first period, the home team put two quick goals past Connor Hellebuyck. Outshooting the home team 15-9 – in large part due to three man advantages in the first 20 minutes – Winnipeg actually had 30 shot attempts compared to the 14 attempts by Edmonton in the same period of time.
Coming into the game at 499 career points, Oilers’ captain Connor McDavid wasted little time getting No. 500 on a strong outlet pass to Jesse Puljujarvi, who capitalized top shelf, blocker-side on Edmonton’s first shot of the game just 3:45 in. Needing just 369 games to reach 500, McDavid tied Sidney Crosby as the eighth-fastest player to reach that mark.
Doubling the deficit was Leon Draisaitl, who potted his ninth of the season on a near-identical strong breakaway pass, to which the Oilers’ other star ripped low shot past Hellebuyck, for Edmonton’s second goal on just its second shot.
Winnipeg did have ample opportunity to find goals as well. Gifted with three opening period power plays, the Jets failed to muster much in the first four minutes of time on the man advantage. However, with Darnell Nurse in the box for a phantom high stick on Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor found Mark Scheifele, who put his eighth of the season past Mike Smith, cutting the Oilers’ lead to 2-1 through 20 minutes.
The second period saw Draisaitl collect his second goal of the game and 10th of the season on an Edmonton power play. With Nathan Beaulieu in the box for tripping, McDavid found Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, whose rebound came directly to Draisaitl. The big German took his time before perfectly placing the puck over a diving Connor Hellebuyck. Through 40 minutes, the Oilers remained in the lead, despite trailing 22-19 in shots and 47-33 in shot attempts.
With Nugent-Hopkins turning an Oilers’ power play into a four-on-four situation by slashing Adam Lowry on a partial break, the Jets were able to take advantage of the extra ice. Defender Neal Pionk took a lap around Edmonton’s zone with the puck before stopping and hammering a long-range slap shot past an out of position Smith, top corner. Pionk’s second of the season brought Winnipeg to within one goal of the home team.
Unfortunately, it was too little, too late for the Jets, as a late third-period high-sticking penalty to Ehlers made the comeback that much harder to attain. Hellebuyck stopped 27 of 30 shots he faced, while seeing his record drop to 7-5-1 on the season. Smith helped the Oilers to the club’s 10th win of the season. Winnipeg is now 9-6-1 on the year. The win was Oilers’ head coach Dave Tippett’s 600th career victory.
Having concluded the two-game set with Edmonton, the Jets will now travel to Vancouver for another two-game battle with the Canucks, beginning on Friday. The two teams will be thrown into action at 9:00 PM central on both Friday and Sunday, before returning home for a Thursday evening contest against the Montreal Canadiens. All three games can be viewed live on TSN.