The Edmonton Oilers played host to the Winnipeg Jets for the second and final game of their two-game set, looking to keep pace atop the North Division with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who shut out the Calgary Flames earlier tonight. Mike Smith was back in goal for Edmonton after sitting out the first game between these two, with Connor Hellebuyck starting for the Jets in similar fashion.
I was finishing dinner for the first couple of minutes but still I could tell the Oilers were serious about these two points from the opening faceoff. Edmonton came out of the gates early and tested Hellebuyck, but couldn’t make their pressure tell.
They were able to draw the game’s first penalty though — a Blake Wheeler trip on Jesse Puljujarvi — but couldn’t take advantage. By my eye they were running too much of the power play through Tyson Barrie, who was firing at will from the blue line early.
The Jets were able to kill off the penalty and drew one of their own through a Gaetan Haas hold on Paul Stastny. The visitors had better fortune on their first power play though, as Nikolai Ehlers’ shot from the top of the left circle hit Adam Larsson, then Andrew Copp, then took a gnarly bounce and eluded Smith. 0-1.
The Jets kept coming in what was one of their few spells of extended pressure all night, and were rewarded a few minutes later. Kyle Connor was operating in the (Oilers’) left corner before working it back to Josh Morrissey. His shot was deflected by Dubois past Smith. 0-2.
The second goal seemed to wake Edmonton up, and their response was swift. Less than two minutes later, Connor McDavid picked up a loose puck in the (Jets’) right corner near the end of a strong shift. He circled into the danger zone and beat Hellebuyck from one knee. 1-2.
Edmonton kept cooking for the rest of the first but couldn’t find the equalizer. The Oilers were good for 78.75% of the expected goals in the period, but went into the intermission down a goal.
Edmonton built off their strong finish to period one and continued to press to start the second. Winnipeg was held without an attempt for over five minutes, but still the Oilers couldn’t find the tying goal.
The Jets picked their play up over the middle part of the period but Schmiddy stood tall, even making what turned out to be a highlight-reel save despite his puck handling being the reason he had to make it.
Edmonton escaped the sequence without conceding, and drew another penalty with just over five minutes left in the period thanks to Paul Maurice’s inability to count to five. Unfortunately, Edmonton were on track to let another power play opportunity go begging before a (terribly called) Jesse Puljujarvi penalty officially ended their man advantage anyway.
Nothing came from the 4-on-4, but the Oilers were able to kill the brief Jets penalty on the other side.
All in all, no goals in the second period for either team, but Edmonton were again the better side and the more deserving according to expected goals (54.80%).
A huge twenty minutes. Edmonton deserved better than a regulation loss in this one and had one period to rip a result from the, so far, outclassed Winnipeg Jets. An early penalty to Leon Draisaitl in the first minute but them up against it, but once again, the PK stood tall and were able to kill off the penalty. Massive kill. A real game saver. And the Oilers took advantage almost immediately.
Loading up the real super line — as Dave Tippett has done on other occasions this season right after penalty kills — of McDavid, Draisaitl and Puljujarvi paid off right away. McDavid fought through a few Jets on the zone entry and got the puck to the right corner. Puljujarvi was first to act, and his pass in front hit a skate and deflected to Darnell Nurse with acres of space. Nurse outwaited Hellebuyck and ripped one past him to tie the game once again. 2-2.
And they didn’t stop there. A couple of good shifts later, Darnell Nurse sent an exit pass to Puljujarvi just inside center, His chip (I think?) fell perfectly for McDavid to pick up and continue up ice with Draisaitl in tow on a 2-on-1. McDavid feathered one across to his favorite sniper and Draisaitl made no mistake, also from one knee. 3-2.
About two minutes later, Mark Scheifele took a penalty for tripping Ethan Bear, giving Edmonton an excellent chance to put the game to bed. Nurse started in Barrie’s stead on this one, but the result was the same: no goal and a Winnipeg kill.
The Jets pushed immediately following the kill, but couldn’t solve Smith and, to be fair, the Oilers did a pretty commendable job of limiting their chances. Eventually, Maurice called Hellebuyck to the bench for a little extra juice.
But it didn’t pay off. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gained possession low before finding Devin Shore in the (Oilers’) slot. He took a step or two and fired it the length of the ice into the net Hellebuyck just vacated. 4-2.
The last minute involved a bit of drama but was mostly academic with the visitors’ down a couple. Edmonton killed the rest of the game off before coalescing in Smith’s crease, victorious.
Maybe the best they’ve played all year. They won the xGF% battle in all three periods, and their third period comeback was exactly the type of effort good teams throw down when they really need a result. Winnipeg had no real answer for the Oilers tonight, and especially so when the game was on the line in the third. A real nice performance the Oilers should feel very good about ahead of a pretty tricky road trip on deck.
Game 34: Unlike last game, a high event game, but largely in our favor. Top 6 was excellent, bottom 6 struggled, and for the 3rd straight game, Bear is top 2 on the team in xGF% playing a lot against Dubois/Connor today. Lagesson - Larsson is starting to regress though. #Oilers pic.twitter.com/J4BI5gwFR0— Sid (@KoskiWin) March 21, 2021
That’s how many points Jesse Puljujarvi officially recorded as of time of publishing, but he could have had three. He didn’t get a touch on the first goal, but his play in front was critical to keeping the play alive for McDavid to eventually finish. I swear to whomever’s listening that he got a touch on the game-winner in the neutral zone, too. His primary to Nurse took a deflection, but he was around it all night. You love to see it.
Ethan Bear was phenomenal, too. He made plays like you see in this clip all night long:
Small complimation of Ethan Bear's play over the past few games— Sid (@KoskiWin) March 20, 2021
Note how a lot of them are against players on the 1st line like Schiefele, Gaudreau and Connor, and also note how he's doing this with little time with the top 6. #LetsGoOilers pic.twitter.com/dkb7L3TW9X
Edmonton heads East for the first of a three-game set with the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.
Don’t forget your fuzzy green hats.