The Edmonton Oilers have never been fans of the Winnipeg Jets. Following last season’s opening round postseason sweep at the hands of their long-standing rivals, the Oilers returned to Manitoba for the first time since being booted from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Opening a home-and-home with the Jets on the road, Edmonton was looking for vengeance, but saw itself fall behind heavily rather quickly. Unable to finish off a late-game comeback, the 11-4-0 Oilers dropped the decision 5-2 to the now 9-3-3 Jets.
“I think we really controlled all three ends, we didn’t search for more,” Connor Hellebuyck said of his team’s ‘complete’ performance Tuesday. “I think the third, we let off the gas just a little bit, or they pushed hard because they’re a good team, one of the two. I thought, as a team and as a whole, we got back into our details and didn’t let them having anything they shouldn’t get.”
Adam Lowry opened the scoring for Winnipeg just 2:09 into the game, beating goaltender Mikko Koskinen with a seemingly innocent-looking wrist shot. Carrying the puck into the Edmonton zone, Lowry fired a long-range wrist shot on net that trickled through the Oilers’ backstop and dribbled just past the goal line, giving Winnipeg its only goal of the frame.
Outshooting the visitors 12-9 in the opening frame, the Jets did great job limiting the dangerous duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, while maintaining a 7-1 lead in high-danger scoring chances through 20 minutes of play. Lowry’s second of the season put the Jets in place to defend a 1-0 lead entering the middle stanza.
Moments after his release from the penalty box following a two-minute tripping infraction, Nikolaj Ehlers gave the Jets a 2-0 lead. With Andrew Copp and Josh Morrissey drawing the assists, Ehlers tore into the Edmonton zone and unloaded a bomb of a slap shot that blasted past Koskinen before tearing into the net, top shelf 6:59.
Three minutes later, the Jets added another tally, this time courtesy of a Pierre-Luc Dubois power play marker. With Leon Draisaitl in the box serving a high-sticking double minor, PLD collected his ninth goal of the campaign. Nate Schmidt got the puck to Josh Morrissey at the point, who patiently waited for Dubois to open up in front of the net. His shot-pass was perfectly redirected into the cage past a helpless Koskinen.
“We call him J-Movechkin, because he’s got that one-timer,” Dubois said of Morrissey. “So, yeah, he’s got a good shot, I’m sure when teams are doing video and see his shot there, his one-timer from the top circle, you’ve got to respect it. So every now and then he gets a pass and he made a really nice play, Schmitty made a real nice play. Wheels and Schief to get the entry going. Yeah, it was a real nice pass by him.”
As if that wasn’t enough, Winnipeg killed off its second penalty of the game – against the league’s most lethal power play nonetheless – before striking for a fourth time, and third time in the period. The 4-0 goal belonged to Mark Scheifele, who deflected a long-range Logan Stanley wrist shot with just 37.4 seconds to play.
Through 40 minutes of play, the home team held a 4-0 lead, while remaining ahead 26-20 in the shot department. Heading into the third period, Winnipeg was attempting to become the first team all season to hold the reigning Hart Trophy winner pointless through an entire game.
With his name on the wrong side of the ledger, McDavid opted to change his stat-line rather quickly in the third. After Andrew Copp was handed a tripping minor just 1:19 into the period, Logan Stanley was called for a boarding penalty. McDavid quickly got the puck to his buddy Draisaitl, who scored Edmonton’s first of the game, just six seconds into Stanley’s minor.
“They have a good power play,” Dubois added. “I thought we did a good job, obviously they get the two goals there. But I thought we did a good job tonight. And then, it’s easy to fall into the trap of just wanting to defend, two quick goals like that, it’s now a two goal game instead of a four-goal game. But we kept going with it, we had a good couple shifts after that, and then we stabilized everything. When you have Bucky in net it gives a lot of confidence.”
But the McDavid-Draisaitl connection was not done there. With 17:28 to go in the frame, McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins collected the assists on Draisaitl’s second of the game – a goal that was initially waved off. After announcing it as no goal due to goaltender interferene from Jesse Puljujarvi. Oilers’ head coach Dave Tippett challenged the play and the call was reversed, with Edmonton cutting Winnipeg’s lead in half.
“His initial read was right,” Hellebuyck said of the call on ice. “Maybe if I had a chance to move or if Puljujarvi, I think is the guy who got knocked into me, he definitely got pushed a little bit but he sold it and then he stayed, that’s my problem is he didn’t try to get out. Like the puck hit me in the middle of the pad and it still goes in, that means I had no chance. For that reason I think it shouldn’t be overturned.”
McDavid then took out some frustration on long-documented rival Neal Pionk by way of a shoulder directly to the head of the Jets’ defender. The hit, which may warrant a call from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, resulted in a two-minute penalty to which Winnipeg was unable to strike.
Kyle Connor put the icing on the cake with an empty net stake with 1:37 to go, collecting his 12th of the season, as he fired the puck the length of the ice into the gaping net, sealing the deal for Winnipeg on a 5-2 home victory.
Hellebuyck stopped all but two of Edmonton’s 34 shots on the night to pick up his sixth win of the season, while Koskinen (22 of 26) and Skinner (eight of eight) combined to make just 30 saves on 35 shots Wednesday.
“You get down 4-0 that’s a hard game to chase, I mean, let’s be honest,” Dave Tippett said of his club’s effort. “We got a couple power play goals to get us back around it but just not enough juice through our group right now. We’ve got to get home and get a day of rest.”
Tuesday’s battle with the Oilers marked the first game of a home-and-home set with Edmonton, as the two teams now head out to Alberta for a Thursday evening showdown at Rogers Place. It also concluded Winnipeg’s season-high, seven-game homestand, to which the Jets went 5-1-1. Puck drop on Thursday is set for 8:00 PM central, and the game can be viewed live on TSN.