The Edmonton Oilers were back home to welcome the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. Both teams played — and traveled — last night, with Edmonton feeling good after scoring their second (converted) touchdown in about as many weeks, and Winnipeg feeling similarly after an OTW over Montreal. Mikko Koskinen (8-10-0, 0.901%) started for the Oilers, while former Oiler Laurent Brossoit (5-1-0, 0.921%) went for the Jets.
Both teams started this one sluggishly, which was expected given their circumstances. Coming into this one, North Division teams were 2-8-0 in the second-half of back-to-backs with travel, and with both teams in that position tonight the first period was a bit like watching paint dry. On Saran Wrap.
That said, the Oilers did control the bulk of the first half of the first period, limiting Winnipeg to just a few attempts against Koskinen through the first 10 or so minutes.
That joy wouldn’t last forever, unfortunately, and Winnipeg started to push back a little bit toward the back half. Despite Winnipeg’s impetus, Edmonton drew the game’s first penalty through Connor McDavid.
The first PP unit snapped it around pretty good for the first minute or so but couldn’t break through, their influenced waned as the penalty ticked on and the Jets killed it off. The Oilers managed a couple of attempts after the penalty, but otherwise the first period ended the same way it began: boringly. No goals on 10 total shots.
Winnipeg began the second period with a bit more initiative than the Oilers, but it was Edmonton who struck first.
Darnell Nurse dumped it along the boards with some heat and it went=around to the other half wall. Connor McDavid, fresh over the boards, was first to act. He met it on that half wall, deftly kicked it to his stick, took a couple of strides toward the middle and beat Brossoit clean underneath the blocker. 1-0.
Shortly after the goal Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took a tripping penalty at the tail end of getting mugged by Neal Pionk, giving Winnipeg their first power play. Fortunately, they killed it off on the back of some stout PK work.
Winnipeg seemed to generate some momentum after the power play, and were eventually rewarded. Matthew Perrault was able to get to the danger zone with relative ease, just in time to redirect Nate Thompson’s shot past Koskinen. 1-1.
Almost immediately, the Oilers answered back. Tyson Barrie made a nice play to key the exit and get the puck to Zack Kassian at center ice. He chipped it through to McDavid in full flight, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins alongside. He used RNH’s decoy perfectly, never looking at Brossoit until the very last second, beating him in the same spot, from about the same spot. 2-1.
Winnipeg started to really push after the goal but Mikko Koskinen stood tall and the Oilers took their slim lead with them into intermission.
Otherwise known as First Period: Redux. A bit of a slog again as the two teams combined for 13 shots — some of them dangerous, some less so — as they started to run out of gas. But you try playing six periods of NHL hockey in ~24 hours with even the smallest flight or bus ride in between. Hard to fault either side.
Winnipeg had the lion’s share of the Corsi events in period three, but that’s to be expected with them trailing throughout and running out of time. But Edmonton hung in there and actually won the expected goals battle in the third.
It did get a little dicey as the Jets pulled Brossoit, first Nugent-Hopkins had an empty-netter disallowed after being challenged for offside, then Mark Scheifele had a wide open net to shoot at but Rogers Ice made the play of the year to hop the puck away from him and save the regulation win.
2-1 final, in regulation, against one of the other two decent clubs in the North Division, on the second-half of a back-to-back, with a flight home in between. You love to see it.
Take those points and run. It might not have been perfect tonight, but the result sure was. Both McDavid goals were nice — Tyson Barrie collected another two (secondary) assists tonight and wasn’t even on the ice for either of them — and Mikko Koskinen had yet another solid night, which is starting to become a habit again.
On to the next one. LFG.
That’s how many viable candidates there are for the Hart Trophy in the NHL as long as Connor McDavid’s in it.
These two teams are at it again on Saturday night, in the late slot on Hockey Night in Canada. LFG.