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Jets Fall to 2-1-1 in Preaseaon After Shootout Loss to Oilers

Photos by Scott Stroh

Jets Fall to 2-1-1 in Preaseaon After Shootout Loss to Oilers

On a night dedicated to the late Dale Hawerchuk, the Winnipeg Jets and long-time rival the Edmonton Oilers put on quite a show for fans gathered at Canada Life Centre. The 3-2 shootout loss was not the outcome Winnipeg wanted, but fans certainly got their money’s worth on the night.

Having unveiled a statue in Hawerchuk’s likeness just an hour prior to the game, and by featuring a pre-game ceremonial puck drop with family and former teammates of Dale’s, True North Sports + Entertainment certainly brought out the emotion in what was the fourth preseason game on the Jets’ schedule.

“That was first class,” head coach Rick Bowness said of the Hawerchuk memorial. “The people who did the statue did an outstanding job. That’s a great image of Dale. I think the organization deserves a lot of credit for honouring Dale the way they have. The statue is fantastic.”

Cole Perfetti led the way with two goals for Winnipeg on Saturday, while Pierre-Luc Dubois assisted on both his linemate’s tallies. Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 33 shots for the Jets, but unfortunately, it wasn’t’ quite enough for the win, as Devin Shore scored the only goal of the shootout, ensuring his team came out on top.

“Obviously it’s a very big deal, the legacy that Dale left here,” Perfetti said post-game. “I didn’t get the chance to meet him, but he left a big print here in Winnipeg, in the city and the organization. It was a big deal tonight, you saw the crowd. That shows you how much he meant to the city, to the team. Having a little bit of a connection there, Ms. Hawerchuk doing the selection a couple years ago, is pretty cool. A great night to honour him. It was special all around.”

Edmonton opened the scoring late in the first period, on what was the product of a difficult Ville Heinola giveaway. Having been instructed by new head coach Rick Bowness to take some chances and jump into the play offensively, the young Jets hopeful got caught trying to carry the puck out of his zone and ended up gifting it right to Tyler Benson on the half-wall.

Benson collected the disc and walked in towards Connor Hellebuyck before ripping a heavy wrist shot past the veteran goaltender high, glove side. The goal gave Edmonton the lead for only two minutes, before the home team was able to capitalize on a two-man advantage late in the frame.

“The mistake was a turnover but some of that fault lies on the forwards as well,” Bowness said of the play. “If you watch the replay, he’s got the puck and there are three forwards swinging and he’s looking at their backs. So he really has no one to give the puck to. So a veteran would take the puck, dump it out, reload, and start again. He tried to make a play that young guys want to make. He’ll learn from that. Some of the blame for that goes the forwards too. He was looking at numbers and he was under pressure. You need quick up. We want to play fast, someone has to be there and there was no one there. Those are the things we have to straighten out.”

With Jason Demers in the penalty box for interfering with Kristian Reichel, Markus Niemelainen took a high-sticking minor on Blake Wheeler just 13 seconds later. Winnipeg needed exactly one minute to find the twine on the ensuing five-on-three.

It was youngster Cole Perfetti who got the final touch on the puck before it beat Stuart Skinner into the cage. Heinola atoned for his earlier sin and got the puck to Pierre-Luc Dubois. Serving as one of the Jets’ three alternate captains on the night, Dubois faked a shot and dished it to Perfetti who put it on net and collapsed for the rebound. He jammed until the puck crossed the line, knotting the game up at ones with 3:17 to go.

The first period was all Winnipeg, as the Jets held onto a 15-4 shot lead through 20 minutes of play. While the middle stanza wasn’t much for entertainment, it did see the Oilers put up eight shots to the Jets’ four, bringing the totals to 24-12 as the two clubs hit the ice for the final frame.

The third period began with a spirited tilt between Blake Wheeler and Luke Esposito, which seemingly led directly to some heightened emotions in the form of penalties.

“I didn’t really love the play,” Wheeler said. “Going into our goalie and Schmidty there, too. I got a little fired up. I felt I went into Bucky and Schmidty. It was not a spot that needed that type of play.”

On the power play, Cole Perfetti found Pierre-Luc Dubois on a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play. However, the goal was called back following a successful Oilers’ offside challenge. Despite the chorus of boos, Winnipeg bounced right back scoring just 35 seconds after what would have been the initial go-ahead marker.

“Yeah, I don’t love it,” Perfetti said of the offside challenge. “It slows down the game. And takes away points, takes away big goals on the power play. We had lots of llooks, lots of chances. Finally capitalized and scored there at a big moment in the game. To see it taken away kinda sucked, but we showed some resilience to come back and score.”

And once again, it was the combination of ‘PLD’ and ‘Fetts’, as Dubois got the puck to Perfetti, who moved in towards the Edmonton net and beat Skinner, this time legally, giving Winnipeg a 2-1 lead.

But, much like that of Edmonton’s early go-ahead goal, the game remained at an uneven score for just a short period of time once again.

Again, penalties led to the next tally.

With just 21 seconds having ticked off a Dubois tripping minor, Dylan Samberg found himself in the box for hooking. And 19 seconds into their first two-man advantage, the Oilers potted the game-tying goal. A Dylan Holloway cross-ice pass landed on the stick of Jason Demers, who handily beat Hellebuyck to the post and wired the puck into the cage.

Despite added pressure from Edmonton, a narrow gap in the shot chart and two goal posts from Holloway, the game remained tied at twos and needed overtime and a shootout to find a victor.

A splendid dangle from 2022 first round pick Brad Lambert and a sensational save by Stuart Skinner on a Nate Schmidt breakaway kept the game tied in the early stages of the extra frame. Despite additional chances by Lambert and Perfetti, the extra five minutes solved nothing, and a shootout was required.

“He is shifty and he’s got some great hands and the ability of making plays,” Wheeler said of the young Lambert. “So, when we get in a situation where it’s three on three, he makes things happen. So another, obviously, young player that has a bright future.”

After misses by both Perfetti and Lambert (post), and a goal from Devin Shore, Dubois needed to score as Winnipeg’s final shooter, but he could not beat Skinner, firing the puck wide of the net, as Winnipeg skated off the ice in defeat, 3-2.

Connor Hellebuyck stopped 25 of Edmonton’s 27 shots, dropping his first game of the preseason. The big Stuart Skinner turned aside 33 shots for the Oilers, taking the win. The Jets are now 2-2-0  in preseason play and next host the Calgary Flames on Wednesday in exhibition action from Canada Life Centre. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM central time.

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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