The snake bites us, but tonight we were reminded that it bites other teams, as well. The Edmonton Oilers have had a number of pitiful losses lately, with four one-goal losses of late, but tonight it's time to turn the pity full blast towards the Jets, as Patrik Laine put in the game-winning goal on his own net with 8:39 left in the third to put give the Oilers a 3-2 win at home.
This game felt like the opposite of the Oilers' recent losses, holding leads for most of the game, only to give it up with a few minutes left in the third for some very frustrating losses on games they could have and should have won. Tonight, it was Winnipeg, playing back-to-back after an embarrassing 6-2 loss the the Flames, who led for a majority of the game until Laine's own goal late in the game. It was almost the hockey gods' way of giving the Oilers back two points for all the traumatic close losses on the road, and they were happy to take it.
"I'm not complaining" were the first three words uttered by Coach McLellan in the post-game conference, and that generally reflected the sentiment of the team and fanbase, though it's tough to see it happen to the Jets, who are now 0-3 against the Oilers this season and were badly in need of a bounceback game after losing their previous three straight with the toughest schedule so far of any team in the NHL.
"We're not going to give that one back to them," said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins after the game. "We're gonna take that and run with it for sure."
The Oilers badly needed a win tonight to start a new chapter in their season, and with the two points from a game in which the Oilers were less than perfect but just good (and lucky) enough to win, they find themselves back in second in the Pacific Division, tied with Anaheim at 35 points.
The game got off to a rather even start, both teams trading chances with a few good chances from the Letestu line and the usual Connor McDavid Speed Acrobatics Show. It wasn't until 14:50 that the first goal of the period was scored by Matthieu Perreault, off a Matt Benning giveaway at the Jets' blueline followed by an erratic backcheck during which no one seemed to be covering anyone. Perreault tapped in the rebound off of Brian Little's shot and the Jets were up 1-0. The shots were even at 10-10 at the end of the first, with a big scare coming when Andrej Sekera left the ice after being hit hard by Winnipeg's other resident giant Chris Thorburn who, if you forgot, does crazy stuff like this.
Luckily, he survived this attack and was back on the ice by the end of the period. Jordan Eberle had a few good chances from the point late in the period, but his stick snapped on the first one and he hit the post on the second one-- the Oilers were sniffing, but the cigar was tantalizingly hidden in the first.
The cigar was triumphantly picked up by Oscar Klefbom in a suave Swedish manner as he tapped in the rebound off a Tyler Pitlick shot at 1:53 for his fifth of the season, setting a new career high in goals just 31 games into the season and evening the score at 1-1 early into the second. Pitlick and Maroon picked up the assists and Larsbom shared a sweet moment on the bench afterwards.
Then, Chris Thorburn and Zack Kassian proceeded to get into a scrap, which featured a lot of awkward hugging followed by a takedown by Kassian. The Jets, however, really turned up the heat with around six minutes of continued offensive pressure, and Chris Thorburn put the Jets back up 2-1 at 12:00 when he snapped in a great feed from Marko Dano. The Jets continued to pile on the offensive pressure after they took the lead back, with the Oilers flailing around just trying to clear the puck-- they were badly in need of a spark.
Enter Zack Kassian. Taking a long feed from Dillon Simpson and flying in on a breakaway, his beautiful wrister beat Hellebuyck cleanly and his toothless grin lit up the entire Rogers Arena as he got his first goal in 22 games after being rather snakebitten in the last few dozen. What a wonderful moment for a guy who's turned his life around and had a great fight earlier in the game-- heartwarming, scintillating, just wonderful.
Unfortunately, this moment was rudely snatched away by the NHL because his foot was a few inches above the ice. Though his back foot was actually onside, it was ruled technically offside because it was just above the ice surface. So, Zack Kassian did not get his first goal in 22 games, Dillon Simpson did not get his first NHL point, and the Oilers were still down 1-2. Thanks, snek.
Sometimes, a bias for getting everything accurate to the minute detail can be deleterious to larger problems such as a lack of scoring in the league, and that's what we saw here. To make it worse, Kassian was assessed a roughing penalty in the dying seconds of the period, which should have been a really beautiful period for a cool guy, but instead it was just not and he found himself sitting in the penalty box to start the third period.
The Oilers started the third with an electrifying jump, first on the penalty kill with two great shorthanded chances by Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, the latter drawing a slashing penalty on Nikolaj Ehlers that negated the Jets power play. On the power play, Mark "Jets Slayer" Letestu tied the game at 2-2 with a beautiful shot from the left side that he elevated above the pad of Hellebuyck. The goal, off a beautiful pass from McDavid at 2:28, was his fifth of the season and if you can believe it, fourth against the Jets this season. On that goal, McDavid picked up his 27th assist and 39th point of the season as he continues his beastmode rampage, with Lucic also getting his 14th assist.
The Oilers continued to press after the goal, outshooting the Jets in the third 5-0 at the five minute mark of the period, with even Pouliot jumping in on a breakaway and some great swats at the net generated off of the physical play of Lucic and Caggiula to maintain offensive pressure. None of these shots, however, were able to beat Connor Hellebuyck, until Secret Agent Patrik Laine put the puck cleanly in his own net on an attempt to swat the rebound away after a Mark Letestu shot, putting the Oilers up 3-2 with 8:39 left in the game. Of course Mark "Jets Slayer" Letestu got credit for the goal, his fifth of the season against the Jets and sixth on the year. I really like Patrik Laine-- he's a weird kid, and I love weird people in general, so it was sad to see him with his head down looking like a sad blushing egg on the bench afterwards, but also really nice to see the support from his teammates on the bench after the very untimely own goal.
"Everybody saw what happened, and that's my comment on the goal," he said after the match, with a rather unkind caption below his name. I hope his friend Jesse Puljujarvi can send him a few selfies of his own face to cheer him up.
In the end, the Oilers were able to exorcise their late third period demons to close this one out because let's face it, tonight the Jets were playing the role of the Oilers, and we thank them profusely for it while apologizing at the same time.
Did You Notice?
Hunter the Lynx made an appearance to ask the very nervous-looking neighborhood folks to "donate" their blood.
- Having just escaped Uncle Todd’s Basement after a couple of rough games, Oscar Klefbom had a fantastic game, scoring the opening goal for the Oilers and finishing with a team-high five shots, killing it possession-wise with a 56.82% CF and was on the ice for six high danger shot attempts for, and three against. His defensive partner Adam Larsson also had a good night, finishing with a 60.98% CF.
- Nugey had a much much better night in the faceoff circle, finishing with a stellar 64% FO% to improve on his 50% in Minnesota and 29% against Philadelphia. Also showed great tenacity and drive to fight off three Jets players to get a shot on net in the third.
- Milan Lucic generated some great opportunities the entire night, finishing with a team high 63.16% CF and his 14th assist of the year.
- Mark Letestu slayed, credited with two goals and four shots on net. Too bad the Oilers don’t have any more games against the Jets this season for him to pad his points totals.
- Connor McDavid had a great bounceback game after a good but not great showing in the Minnesota game— finished with an assist to pad his points lead atop the NHL, and made a couple of nice defensive plays, as well, particular one with his stick in the first to break up what would have been a wide open shot on a rebound for the Jets. Just missed what would have been his 13th goal of a season on an empty netter, seemingly beat by buzzer again (though he had plenty of time and stickhandled twice before taking the shot, leading me to believe Connor is perhaps more noble than anyone gives him credit for).
- Giveaways galore, as the Oilers finished with 19 giveaways (to the Jets’ 9). They looked sloppy exiting the zone for large chunks of the game, and were particularly messy around center ice. It felt like each time they had the puck in their own end and were attempting to leave the zone, a Jets player would swoop in and take it away.
I want to give this kid a hug. Tough night, but he will score a gazillion goals the rest of the season to make up for it.
Jets Captain Blake Wheeler consoles Patrik Laine after his own goal pic.twitter.com/9L9ig3eDes— Marina Molnar (@mkmolnar) December 12, 2016
Game in a Haiku
The Winnipeg Jets
cosplay really well as the
Tuesday, December 13 vs Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:00p.m. MST. Bluejackets are 17-5-4, McJesus Christ.