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Oilers 3 - Coyotes 1 — The Rise of Jujhar

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More than just a pretty beard.

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Edmonton Oilers
I got you, fam.
Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

His name is Jujhar.

The boy also known as J.J. was born on August 13, 1994 in the town of Surrey, BC, becoming the third player of Punjabi descent to play in the NHL. Tonight, Jujhar "J.J." Khaira became known for more than having the lushest beard on the Oilers, scoring his first NHL goal in his 17th NHL game for the eventual game-winner in a 3-1 victory over the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Monday night.

The Oilers' third win in a row came in a rather odd game with the Coyotes' trap style of hockey in full swing, one that featured just seven shots from both teams in the final period, as the Oilers got off to a fast start to take a 3-0 lead midway through the second period and proceeded to clog the Coyotes out the rest of the way. Cam Talbot made 20 saves and gave up just one goal to Radim Vrbata on the power play as the Oilers (24-15-7) maintain their one-point lead above San Jose, who defeated the listless Jets tonight. Edmonton now sits just two points back of the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division. What a time to be alive.

"It's a relief, for sure," said Khaira after the game on his first NHL goal. "Growing up as a kid, playing street hockey and all that, you just always picture it in your head when you're playing; it's a reality now and it feels good."

"He got off to a really good start with us, obviously, some size that moves and he has a quickness to the puck, protects it well," remarked Coach McLellan after the game. "Then [fell] sick and out of the lineup, recovered and we got the same type of game from him. We're happy for his contribution, and right now he's taking advantage of his opportunity."

Leon Draisaitl emphasized the importance of picking up the two points in a tight division, despite the frustrating style of play they were up against. "We could have scored a few more goals but so could they," he said. "They're not an easy team to play against; they're very structured and stick to their details so those games are sometimes not that fun to play but we're very happy with two points."

It's difficult to pinpoint when Oilers fans truly allowed belief to seep in, but there's a good case to be made for the last three wins in converting even the most seasoned, skeptical fans who've been burned many times in the past. Tonight’s game was one where from the Khaira goal onwards, there was very little doubt that the Oilers would win, a sense of assurance completely foreign to many before this season, and a feeling still received with suspicion but also increasing acceptance. With now 46 games played, there is true hope that the playoffs do not exist solely within the confines of the "Fanfiction" folder on my computer.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring just 3:34 into the first period in a throwback sequence from 2011, taking a great feed from Jordan Eberle to beat Mike Smith with a lightning quick release for his ninth of the season. Jordan Eberle picked up his 19th assist of the season on the play, which brings him closer to the elusive goal of actually scoring (but not quite). Adam Larsson, who returned after missing one game (and alarming a province), also got his 7th assist of the season on the play.

Mike Smith made a couple of great stops in the early stages of the second period, first on Mark Letestu and then a few on Jordan Eberle, though let's be honest, there were witches helping him on the Eberle shots, to keep it only a 1-0 lead for the Oilers until JUJHAR stepped up.

Jujhar Khaira said bye to food poisoning and put the Oilers up 2-0 at 11:40 in the second with his first ever NHL goal. After knocking Connor Murphy off the puck, the big man waited stealthily in front of the net and retrieved a great pass from Mark Letestu to shovel it past Mike Smith. Already the facial hair idol of the team, Khaira's first goal came after a couple of great plays already earlier in the game, with a couple of nice passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates.

Leon Draisaitl made it 3-0 just 1:57 later, taking a nifty pass from Connor McDavid on the wing and making a smooth move past the defender for his 17th goal of the season. McDavid picked up his 51th point of the season with the assist on the goal.

Radim Vrbata cut the lead to 3-1 with 2:04 left in the second with a power play goal, capitalizing on some gross Oilers swarm defense for the only goal Cam Talbot would allow in the game, as the Oilers would shut the door and seal the win with a lethargic but effective third period that featured only three shots from both teams in the first 12 minutes.

The Good

  • Tonight, let's celebrate J.J. and his first NHL goal, along with killing it with a team-high 81.82% CF on the night.
  • The "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" line of Pouliot - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle keep improving, looking dangerous all night and finishing with 10 shots tonight (including five from Nugey) and the opening goal. Nuge led all forwards in ice-time with 20:19 and also had a great shorthanded rush later in the game. Pouliot showed off some great backchecking near the end of the third on DuClair.
  • Adam Larsson returned with a bang after missing a game due to a blocked shot-- led all Oilers with 22:48 in ice time, and chipped in with an assist, a hard shot on net, two hits, four blocks, and no giveaways. Made a great play on Dvorak late in the game when he was coming in on Talbot alone to prevent him from getting a clean shot at the net. Had a bit of a slip-up and left his man open in the final moments, but was bailed out by Talbot. It's interesting to see McLellan use the Larsson/Klefbom pairing in primarily defensive zone starts (30.77% Offensive Zone Start % tonight), perhaps showing increased trust in the two after some struggles in December.

The Bad

  • Andrej Sekera hobbled off the ice near the end of the game. Please be okay.

The Ugly JORDAN EBERLE SNAKEBIT WATCH

Status: STILL SNAKEBIT

Exhibit A:

Hiss.

**Snakebit Watch will begin soon for Milan Lucic, who has not scored in ten games.**

Three Things We Learned

1. Emo Drai's goal celebrations are decreasing in enthusiasm at a rate that makes me worried his celly will soon consist of only pouting.

I scored again. Le sigh.

2. Nugey's soul patch is approaching the density of his eyebrows. It's truly been a landmark year for the team.

The world is not worthy of this soul patch.

3. These Swedes have some OG spirit in them. Despite gentlemanly appearances, they don't mess around.

Jag är stark!

Game in a Haiku

Tonight's goals feature

German engineering, a

soul patch and dank beard.