The Winnipeg Jets have played a lot of good games this year. Monday night wasn’t one of them.
Mike Smith stopped 36 shots to lift the Oilers to a 6-1 win, handing the Jets their fourth straight loss.
The Jets sported a new look following the announcement that Nikolaj Ehlers is out for the rest of the regular season as the Jets continue to wait on Adam Lowry’s return.
Ehlers was left wincing after a seemingly standard hit from Toronto’s Jake Muzzin in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Leafs. The Dane is having the best season of his career, currently second in team scoring with 46 points and one goal behind Kyle Connor’s 22. Ehlers is expected to return for the playoffs.
Paul Maurice shuffled his lines as Andrew Copp and Mason Appleton skated alongside Mark Scheifele on the top line. Kristian Vesalainen, appearing in his ninth game this year, lined up next to Paul Stastny and Mathieu Perreault on the third line.
The potential playoff preview went back and forth immediately after puck drop with both teams getting some solid looks on net. Connor McDavid’s partial break tested Connor Hellebuyck early after Tucker Poolman couldn’t handle a loose puck and the Jets went right back at the Oilers as Neal Pionk stepped up and unleashed a bomb at Edmonton’s Mike Smith.
The initial tempo of the game got the best of Darnell Nurse whose late cross-check on Jansen Harkins gave the Jets the first power play of the game. Blake Wheeler quarterbacked the first powerplay unit and the Jets got a number of shots off, but the Oilers did well to keep the puck to the outside as their best defenceman watched from the penalty box.
A hard forecheck from Leon Draisaitl below the Jets’ goal line kept the puck away from Tucker Poolman before the reigning Hart Trophy winner fed the puck to a waiting Adam Larsson in the slot. Larsson immediately dished the puck to Alex Chiasson who fired a low one-timer past Hellebuyck’s right pad on the Oilers’ ninth shot of the game. Scoring for Edmonton snowballed from there.
The Oilers rode the momentum after some miscommunication between Pierre-Luc Dubois and Connor as they entered the offensive zone. McDavid picked up the loose puck, crossed the blue line and dropped it back to Tyson Barrie who sent it toward Hellebuyck hoping Jesse Puljujärvi could get a stick on it. The puck bounced off the young Fin’s leg landing right on the stick of the league leader in points for an easy tap in giving the Oilers a 2-0 lead heading into the second period.
McDavid has eight points (2G, 6A) in his previous three games and before tonight’s game was 25 minutes old, he’d added two more goals. Early in the second period McDavid’s backhand attempt on a breakaway was stopped by Hellebuyck, but the Oilers centreman regrouped and came down the left wing with a burst of speed on the same shift and snuck one under the left pad. The Oilers and Jets have played eight times so far this year and McDavid has recorded multi-point games every single time these two teams have faced each other this season.
Scoring quickly got out of hand after Edmonton’s Draisaitl and Nurse scored two just over 90 seconds apart. Both goals were similar one-timers, stretching Hellebuyck to his left and both players ripped the puck glove side. Draisaitl’s goal gave him 488 points on his career, passing Marco Sturm to make him the highest scoring German player in NHL history.
Late in the second the Jets finally kept up some sustained pressure on Mike Smith and had Edmonton’s defense on the run before a broken play put the puck on Mark Scheifele’s stick who ripped a wrist shot into the twine past Smith’s glove. Scheifele is now one goal shy of 200 goals and 500 career points.
McDavid scored his ninth career hat trick after another breakaway and about 15 dekes before he lifted the puck just high enough to trickle over Hellebuyck’s outstretched blocker giving the Oilers a 6-1 lead after forty. The Oilers scored six goals on 22 shots on the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and unsurprisingly Laurent Brossoit set up between the pipes for the third period.
The Jets held the Oilers off the scoresheet in the third period, but the Oilers accomplished the task at hand, now sitting one point up on the Jets for second place in the North Division
The Jets will try to avoid losing five straight games when they lace them up against the Oilers on Wednesday. The pregame show begins at 6 p.m. on 680 CJOB with the puck dropping shortly after 8 p.m.