It was a thrilling evening of hockey, but it was also a game the Winnipeg Jets should never have let slip through their fingers.
Despite a long power play opportunity in overtime, a 47-32 shot advantage and more than a dozen great scoring chances, the Jets couldn’t solve the mystery of Edmonton goaltender Stuart Skinner and fell 2-1 to the Oilers in a shootout.
It was, however, a tremendous hockey game between two great teams. Back and forth with speed, shard passing and aggressive play, the goaltenders were clearly the stars of the night as both Skinner and Jets net minder Connor Hellebuyck were terrific. In fact, it took two beautiful goals to beat them at all.
“I thought both teams were really good. I don’t think it was just a goaltending battle,” Jets net minder Connor Hellebuyck told reporters in Edmonton after the game. “I think every person on both teams was playing well. It almost had that playoff vibe to it. It was a grinder with two good teams going at it.”
With the win, the Oilers improved to 12-4-0 and stayed in first place in the Pacific Division. The Jets moved to 9-3-4 and remained tied with the Minnesota Wild atop the Central Division.
The Jets outshot Edmonton 17-11 in the first period, but the teams went to the break scoreless. The Jets outshot Edmonton 12-9 in the second period, but the teams went to the second intermission scoreless again.
Then, at 13:57 of the third period, the Jets drew first blood.
And it was also one of the most beautiful goals of the season for Winnipeg. On a three-on-two rush, Kyle Connor slipped the puck to Mark Scheifele, Scheifele then dropped a pass to Nikolaj Ehlers and the Jets Dashing Dane drilled a shot under the bar just over Skinner’s outstretched glove.
However, the Oilers’ Connor McDavid suddenly did what Connor McDavid does. He flew down the centre of the ice, undressed both Jets defensemen, Logan Stanley and Dylan DeMelo, and flipped a shot high over Connor Hellebuyck’s pad just 28 seconds after Winnipeg had taken a 1-0 lead. McDavid extended his points streak to 16 games and this contest was deadlocked once again.
From that point to the end, both goaltenders were outstanding and the teams were headed to overtime. Edmonton outshot Winnipeg 11-9 in the third, but both teams shared some excellent scoring chances.
Regardless, the Jets did have an advantage heading to extra time. With 52 seconds remaining in regulation, McDavid lost control of his twig and high-sticked Scheifele in the face. McDavid was handed a double minor and Winnipeg had a power-play opportunity for more than three minutes to start the five-minute OT.
But Skinner was just too good. He made seven saves during the Jets power play to bar the door and send the game to a shootout. Winnipeg outshot Edmonton 47-32 over 65 minutes of play, but Skinner was just too good on this night.
In the shootout, McDavid and Kyle Turris scored for Edmonton while Skinner shut down Jets’ shooters Connor and Scheifele and Edmonton had its 12th win of the season. On the upside, the Jets now have at least a point in 13 of the last 14 games.
Edmonton outhit Winnipeg 39-17 (some drunk guy must have been doing the counting) and the Oilers won 54 per cent of the face-offs, but the really bad number for Winnipeg was the power play number. At some point, the Jets must do something to improve the power play. While Edmonton was zero-for-two with the man advantage, Winnipeg was an embarrassing zero-for-five. That’s a number that won’t do much to help any team beat a club as good as the Oilers.
Winnipeg is back at it on Friday night when they face the Canucks in Vancouver. The Canucks have lost five straight while Winnipeg is now 2-2-2 on the road this season. Eric Comrie will get the start in goal for the Jets.
Game time on TSN 3 is 9 p.m. CST.