The Edmonton Oilers flew to Winnipeg on Saturday for what was originally scheduled to be the late-night showing of Hockey Night in Canada. But with the evolving COVID-19 situation within the Vancouver Canucks organization, the previously set matchup between Vancouver and Toronto was cancelled, pushing the 9:00 PM game up to a 6:00 PM central start time.
Having just returned from a five-game road trip that saw Winnipeg win four of five 6:00 PM games, not much changed in terms of start time on Saturday. The only lineup changes following Thursday’s victory over the Maple Leafs was the swap of Ville Heinola for Logan Stanley and Connor Hellebuyck starting in net for the home team.
Playing three times in the next five games, the Jets and Oilers will certainly grow acquainted to each other as the season begins to wane down in the coming weeks. Only 2-4-0 in the season series with Edmonton, Winnipeg has owned a fantastic record during the month of April dating back to 2014. In eight years’ worth of Aprils, the Jets are 27-4-4 in 35 total regular season games.
Edmonton has, however, won three-straight against Winnipeg and continued that trend on Saturday, taking both points in a 3-0 shutout victory over the host. In failing to register a goal on the night, both Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers had six-game point scoring streaks snapped on the night.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” Scheifele said post-game about his matchup against Connor McDavid. “He’s obviously the best player in the world for a reason. You just can’t give him time and space. He’s so tricky with the puck, he makes plays that a lot of people don’t make in this league and it makes it tough. You’ve got to be aware of him every time he’s on the ice and that’s the tough thing.”
Saturday’s opening period may have been the fastest-paced frame of the season, with both teams flying up and down the ice with chance after chance. Although neither the Jets nor Oilers were able to materialize any goals from the man high-volume opportunities. Through 20 minutes, Edmonton led Winnipeg 10-9 in the shots department.
The teams then exchanged power play chances in the period with Edmonton cashing in on one of the club’s opportunities. With 33 seconds left in a Neal Pionk hooking minor, Tyson Barrie absolutely hammered a one-timer past Connor Hellebuyck from long range. Set up by Connor McDavid, Barrie’s sixth of the campaign came with eight minutes to play in the middle stanza. The ice tilted in favour of the visitors in the second period, with the Oilers taking a 21-13 shot lead into the final frame.
The third period saw an early goal from the Oilers, with Jesse Puljujarvi scoring just 6:37 into the frame. Following a Tucker Poolman turnover, Connor McDavid collected the puck and drove behind the Jets’ net, drawing both Poolman and Kyle Connor towards him, leaving Puljujarvi all alone at the top of the crease. McDavid gifted his linemate a solid pass on his backhand and Puljujarvi put his 10th into the net, giving Edmonton a two-goal lead.
Then with Nikolaj Ehlers in the box following a senseless crosschecking minor, Tyson Barrie hammered another long-range one-timer into the net. With just 40 seconds ticked off of Ehlers’ infraction, Draisaitl set up Barrie, whose shot was deflected by Alex Chiasson for his sixth of the season, sealing the deal for Edmonton.
“When you give them the power-play opportunities and let them work that puck around, especially with McDavid and Draisaitl there, they’re going to make you pay,” Scheifele said. “So it’s one of those nights. You can’t dwell on it too much. We’ve got a little bit of a break here to get our bodies feeling good so we’ve got to use this time to our advantage.”
With roughly three minutes to play, the Jets pulled Hellebuyck from his crease for the extra attacker. A timeout was taken, but the team just couldn’t find a way to solve the red-hot Oilers netminder. The loss was second time that the Jets have been shut out in 2020-21.
Mike Smith finished the night with 26 saves for the shutout, while Connor Hellebuyck stopped just 22 of the Oilers’ 25 shots, seeing his record drop to 21-12-3 on the season. With the loss, Winnipeg’s record now sits at 27-15-3 through 45 games, giving the team 57 points and a .633 points percentage.
McDavid and Draisaitl combined for four points, two assists each, while Ehlers, Scheifele and Connor finished the night a combined -3.
“They’re two unbelievable players and unbelievable talents,” Adam Lowry said of McDavid and Draisaitl. “They lead the league in scoring for a reason… They’re world class players, they’re going to get their chances. It’s about kind of limiting the number to hopefully three or less, that’s kind of the goal.”
Due to a slight scheduling quirk, the Jets now have four days off before hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in two-straight games on Thursday and Saturday. Both games are 6:00 PM starts and can be found on Sportsnet. Edmonton then returns to Winnipeg for a two-game battle of their own next week on Monday and Wednesday.