The Oilers aren’t nearly as frightening without McJeebus and the Nuge on the ice, but all the same it was satisfying to watch the Jets take revenge with a convincing 5-3 victory.
The Jets came out of the gate swinging with Mark Scheifele converting on an early PP opportunity after Blake Wheeler fed him in the middle with a crafty back-pass from down low. The Oilers fired back with a Yamamoto tip off a weak point-shot which Hellebuyck never seemed to pick up through traffic. A few minutes later an inexperienced Jets PK unit failed on several clearing attempts, eventually succumbing to pressure when Ethan Bear blew a one-timer past them from the point to put the Oilers up 2-1. The Edmonton youngsters controlled the play through the 1st and got a lot more shots through than did the Jets, a trend which they would continue throughout.
Jets fans eagerly following the Tyler-Myers-on-his-offside experiment won’t have missed him coughing up an egregious turnover at the offensive blue line, but the real story of the second period was dominant play by Scheifele and Wheeler, including a hot little Shawty. Scheifele turned the puck over in the neutral zone, Wheeler drove it deep into the Edmonton end, then and put it on Scheifele’s tape as he flew up the middle, making the tap-in look easy. Prior to the short-handed goal, however, we saw Skyler Mckenzie tie the game with a deflection of a Joe Morrow point shot for his first goal on the big stage, a fitting reward for the young winger who had been flying around the rink, flaunting his high hockey IQ with good reads and solid positioning.
The third period featured a bit of a line juggle for the Jets, with Paul Maurice replacing Kristian Vesalainen on the top line with Patrik Laine, and playing the younger Finn with Perreault and Little instead. This tweak seemed to suit all concerned, and the Jets carried the play in the third period in precisely the way they hadn’t in the first two. Wheeler rifled one in top-shelf on a 5-on-3, threatening a seam-pass before rifling one top-shelf. McKenzie then struck again at 5-on-5 after making a fine play to break out of the zone, which sprang C.J. Suess for a powerful drive down the near side, culminating in a slick saucer pass back to McKenzie in the slot for a picture-perfect one-timer that left Miko Koskinen no chance of making the save. McKenzie also drew a penalty late in the game not long after Mason Appleton was spared a trip to the morgue. It had been a tense moment, but thankfully the Oilers defender let-up on the dangerously exposed Appleton instead of driving him face-first into the dasher boards. The Oilers won back a little pride after Darnell Nurse made an excellent play to set up the air-borne Kailer Yamamoto for his second of the night, though the two Oilers collided dangerously behind the net immediately afterward.
Overall, the Jets put together a far more solid performance than their previous effort against the Oilers, though they will likely need to find a way to generate more shots-on-goal if they want their pre-season success to carry over into the regular season. Hats off to Yamamoto and Jesse Puljuljarvi who were dangerous for Edmonton every second they were on the ice. Ditto to Skyler McKenzie, who proved that he will be player to watch with the Moose in his first pro season. Playing with the likes of Suess, Appleton, and Spacek he may well be in for a heck of a year.
Photo credit John Brown, Winnipeg Free Press.