For the first time since the Jets returned to Winnipeg, or to be more accurate the Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg and renamed themselves the Jets effectively screwing with the Jets franchise history, the Oilers traveled there to play the newest Canadian team, the only meeting this season between the two teams thanks to the NHLs current schedule format that unfortunately looks like it will last for at least one more season.
From the opening anthem you can tell that the fans in Winnipeg are happy to have an NHL team once again. I haven't heard Rexall Place that loud for an anthem since early in the 2006 season, when memories of the Stanley Cup run were still fresh and the Ryan Smyth death march had yet to start. Once the game started chants of "Go Jets Go" were plentiful and the occasional "Oilers Suck" could be heard as well. With the Jets in the thick of the playoff race it must be fun to be a Jets fan. For once.
Despite a rather hectic start to the game that saw the teams trade turnovers and chances the game remained scoreless through 35 minutes. But once the scoring started it really started. Before the second period ended the teams would combine for three goals with the home team taking a 2-1 lead into the third period. For a team looking to make the playoffs a third period lead against the team occupying 29th spot needs to result in two points but the Jets managed to blow that lead inside of two and a half minutes. Eventually losing 5-3 to the Oilers.
They may not be the same Jets but the results are exactly the same when they play the Oilers: we win.
After a high event opening few minutes to the game fueled by a number of turnovers by both teams that led to scoring chances at both ends of the rink and gave the impression that the final score might be reminiscent of the Oilers/Jets games of the 1980's, the two team tightened up defensively and finished the first period with the score still tied at zero. There were chances though, Ales Hemsky had a breakaway opportunity and Hemsky, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins teamed up for another nice passing play but Nugent-Hopkins wasn't able to finish the play off from the Jets slot. In the Oilers end of the rink Devan Dubnyk started out strong and made a great save on Kyle Wellwood to keep the game scoreless through one period of play.
The game would stay tied for most of the seconde period as well. The Jets would eventually score first goal of the game on a power play with less than five minutes left in the second period. Wellwood was on the receiving end of a cross crease pass from Nik Antropov for his 13th goal of the season. On the goal, Hall was the man in the penalty box for the Oilers but the hooking call that sent him there was debatable at best and flat out terrible at worst. The Oilers would answer right back with a goal of their own on their second power play opportunity of the period when Ryan Whitney's point shot beat Ondrej Pavelec who was being screened by Shawn Horcoff.
The back and forth would continue late in the second period with the Jets retaking the lead during a four-on-four that resulted from Hall taking a shot at Pavelec after the whistle and the predictable scrum that followed. After a great back check from Hemsky broke up the Jets first good chance during the four-on-four, a Jeff Petry turnover to Dustin Byfuglien inside the Oilers blue line would lead to Alexander Burmistrov's go ahead goal with 33 seconds left to play in the period; the third goal in a stretch of less than four minutes.
The intermission didn't stop the back and forth and the Oilers once again drew even less than two minutes in the final period. Again on the power play, Hemsky made a tremendous pass through the slot to Nugent-Hopkins who followed that pass with a beauty of his own to Ryan Jones in the slot for his 14th goal of the season. Despite the goal Jones was no better than okay in his first game back after sitting out the last three as a healthy scratch. There were good plays, like a tape-to-tape pass to Hall in the first period, but there were bad decisions and missed assignments as well.
35 seconds after the Jones goal Lennart Petrell would score his first goal in 14 games to give the Oilers their first lead of the night. The play started at the Oilers blue line with a Randy Jones turnover and ended with a Petrell wrist shot that beat Pavelec through the five-hole. That Petrell looked a little surprised that the puck went in tells you about all you need to know about the quality of this goal. Before the mid-way point of the third period Petrell would strike again with an assist on Hall's goal that extended the Oilers lead to two. With two points this was Petrell's first multi-point game in the NHL.
Satisfied with his two points Petrell felt it would be a good idea to throw the puck out of the Oilers zone, and taking a penalty for closing his hand on the puck in the process. After killing off that brain dead penalty Ryan Smyth found a streaking Jordan Eberle for a breakaway; Eberle's back hand to the top corner would extend the Oilers lead to three. The assist for Smyth was point number 800 of his career. Before the final buzzer Antropov would close the gap to two with 1:10 left to play but that was as close as the Jets would get.