Just 48 hours after suffering a season-worst 6-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on home ice, the Winnipeg Jets were back at it, in hopes of changing their fortunes against the team they will likely be squaring off with in the opening round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Unfortunately for Winnipeg, Wednesday’s matchup did not provide much solace, as the team dropped its fifth-straight game and its sixth-straight against the Oilers. Although not a 6-1 pummelling, the Jets ended up losing 3-1, thus being outscored 21-6 in the five-game homestand.
“That’s the way the game goes,” Mark Scheifele said post-game. “Sometimes you get the bounces, sometimes you don’t. It’s just a matter of working at it. Come to the rink, being sharp, focusing on working on our game. When you work hard, good things will happen. That’s why I’m confident in this group that good things will happen.”
Heading into the game, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid had stolen the show in the eight prior matchups this season. Owning 19 points in those games, the Oilers’ captain hadn’t even had one game with less than two points recorded. In hot pursuit of hitting 100 points in the shortened season, McDavid kept up with his past track record on Wednesday, putting up another three points in the victory, giving him 22 total points in nine games against the Jets.
“What we wanted to do, we accomplished a great big chunk of that, head coach Paul Maurice said. “You know, we did what we set out to do here tonight and we’ve got to build off that. If you can’t get the win in the game, you’ve got to leave the rink feeling like you’re moving in the right direction. I think we did that here today.”
Edmonton set the tone rather quickly in the early going. Just moments after a sizable stop by Mikko Koskinen on Paul Stastny, the Oilers struck on a mid-period power play. With Blake Wheeler in the box for tripping, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got the puck to Connor McDavid, who teed up defenceman Tyson Barrie for a one-timer from the point. Barrie’s seventh of the season found its way past Connor Hellebuyck with just 29 seconds left in the tripping minor.
Other than the special teams goal and a big stop on Domink Kahun, Hellebuyck stayed sharp through the first period, putting up nine saves on 10 shots, while Koskinen turned aside all six pucks he faced in the frame.
The second period saw Winnipeg get right back into the game with Wheeler atoning for his earlier sin, burying a centering pass off a hard forecheck from Andrew Copp. Outmuscling former Jets defenceman Dmitry Kulikov for the puck behind the Oilers’ goal line, Copp found Wheeler all alone, who put the disc past Koskinen low, glove-side just 4:29 into the middle stanza.
But then again, much like the script of the first period, Wheeler found himself in the penalty box once again, this time on a strange-looking double-minor for high-sticking, to which he clipped Edmonton defenceman Ethan Bear up high in the offensive zone away from the play. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins needed just 12 seconds to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead. All three of Barrie, McDavid and the Nuge earned their second points of the game on the quick power play strike.
“I told him I was completely baffled as to how I cut him,” Wheeler said of his conversation with the referee following his call. “My stick went up his arm a little bit as I’m trying to get back into the backcheck and I mean, he’s certainly bleeding, there’s no question about that. You know when you hit someone. Clearly I hit him. I’m shocked that I caused that much damage but that’s the way it goes.”
Entering the third period down 2-1 and trailing 20-15 in the shot department, Winnipeg was in need of a strong showing from its offence as a way of hoping to prove itself against a formidable foe.
Unable to put together much offence for the majority of the period, Winnipeg was finally given its first power play of the game with just 4:47 to go. But unfortunately for the Jets, a sliding Mikko Koskinen robbed Paul Stastny of Winnipeg’s best chance on the man advantage. Coming out of the penalty box, the Oilers sprung Kailer Yamamoto on a breakaway, to which Hellebuyck absolutely robbed the speedy forward, keeping the game to one goal.
But as has been the case between these two teams, the Oilers came out on top. With Hellebuyck pulled for the extra attacker, McDavid found Draisaitl, who walked in alone and and put the puck into the Jets’ net, sealing the deal on the 3-1 Edmonton victory.
The Jets are now 2-7-0 against the Oilers on the season and will have their work cut out in figuring out the game’s most prolific forward in advance of a probable first-round playoff matchup. But according to Hellebuyck, the team is just saving up its goals for the postseason.
“Yeah, we’re not scoring as much as we were, but that just means once we start scoring we’re going to be scoring a lot,” he said. “Playoffs are right around the corner, so if we’re saving all our goals for the playoffs that’s huge. I think you know our team is very offensive. They’re going to come.”
Hellebuyck stopped __ of Edmonton’s __ shots on the night, while seeing his record __ to 21-14-3 with the __ on Wednesday. His counterpart Mikko Koskinen turned aside __ of Winnipeg’s __ shots, who saw his record __ to 10-11-0 on the season. With the __, Winnipeg’s record now sits at 27-18-3 through 49 games, giving the team 57 points. Edmonton now sits at 28-16-2 for 58 points, while boasting two games in hand on the Jets.
“That’s hockey, you’re going to go through slides,” Scheifele said. “We’ve been pretty consistent all year, not losing two in a row. When you go on a slide like this it definitely sucks. You never want to do this, But whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We just have to know there’s a plan for this, there’s a plan for this team. Just keep working hard, that’s what it comes down to.”
Now having concluded the five-game homestand with Toronto and Edmonton, Winnipeg will now head back on the road for the final trip of the season. Facing off against Montreal on Friday, the Jets will then travel to Ottawa before heading to Calgary before returning home for games against Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto to finish the shortened season.
Both games on Friday and Monday feature 6:00 PM central start times and can be found on live on TSN, while Wednesday’s game against Calgary is set for 8:30 and will be available on Sportsnet.