Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Jets defeat Oilers 5-4 in season opener
EDMONTON — Where have these guys been?
Three faces who weren’t in the Winnipeg Jets’ lineup at the end of last season contributed four goals and the Jets rallied from a two-goal hole to upend the Edmonton Oilers 5-4 in Tuesday night’s season opener in Rexall Place.
Michael Frolik, acquired during the summer from the Chicago Blackhawks, fired two goals including the winner with 5:02 to play to give the Jets their first season-opening win in their three years back in Winnipeg.
Rookies Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba also beat Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk.
Bryan Little had Winnipeg’s other goal and goalie Ondrej Pavelec was very good in the third period with 14 saves.
Trouba knotted the tying goal at 9:06 of the final period, stepping up to intercept a risky Oilers pass in the neutral zone and returning the puck to the Oilers zone for a big slapshot.
The Jets rallied from a 4-2 deficit at the game’s half-way point.
Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky had staked the home team to the two-goal margin with goals less than five minutes apart, but before the second was over, Frolik confirmed the Jets’ continuing interest in the result with a hard shot to cut it to 4-3 by the intermission.
Doling it out
Under the category of trust, any wondering that Jets coach Claude Noel would be hesitant to play his rookies Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba got an initial answer on Tuesday night.
Noel sent Trouba into the deep end in his first NHL game, playing the 19-year-old 15 minutes in the first two periods and 25:02 overall.
Scheifele, looking fairly confident in the middle of the second line with Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi, made his fair share of things happen on Tuesday, and wasn’t far behind in playing time, 13:14 after two periods and 17:58 for the night.
Hurt by killing
Kind of like last season’s start, the penalty killing was a huge liability.
Edmonton scored on its first two chances of the game, needing only 39 seconds of advantage time for the first two goals. One game does not a trend make, but it’s a start that could cause a jitter or two, given that the Jets were 59 per cent in penalty killing eight games into last season.
Power in that start
The league’s worst power play in the 2013 shortened season got off to a good start on Tuesday night. Jets rookie Mark Scheifele scored his second NHL goal on the team’s first chance, tying the game at 3:25. Winnipeg went one for two with the man advantage in the first.
Last season, it scored at a clip of 13.8 per cent.
With Grant Clitsome’s injury, Jets coach Claude Noel shuffled his defence pairings yet again. The hope had been to play Clitsome with Dustin Byfuglien early in the season, but Byfuglien went back to his partner from the majority of the last two seasons, Toby Enstrom.
That left Zach Bogosian, who was going to start with Enstrom, to take on rookie Jacob Trouba. Winnipeg’s third pair was Mark Stuart, Trouba’s projected mentor/partner for the start of the season, and Paul Postma.
EDMONTON — Clean slates and new beginnings are the themes for tonight’s NHL season-opener for two teams that missed the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring.
The Winnipeg Jets, now in their new home in the Western Conference, face off against the Edmonton Oilers at 9 p.m. CT at Rexall Place.
The Jets were four points off the playoff mark last April, with 51 in 48 games. Edmonton finished with 45 points and missed by 10.
After their shabby 1-4-3 pre-season, the Jets said after this morning’s skate they're raring to go.
"It hasn’t been that bad," said centre Bryan Little. "We’d like to have done a little better in exhibition but it’s over now and it’s a clean slate. I think everyone’s a bit tired of practising and playing exhibition games. I think we’re ready for the real thing now. I think everyone’s real excited."
The Jets’ franchise, including its Atlanta years, has only made the playoffs one time.
"It’s a long summer but I’ve had five or six of them so I really want to change that this year," Little said. "It sucks being at home, being bored, doing nothing, watching other guys play in the playoffs.
"Hopefully this summer coming up is a lot shorter. That would be nice."
Left-winger Evander Kane, coming off a 17-goal performance in the shortened season, said the Jets are more than eager for 2013-14.
"The first game of the season, everybody’s really excited about it," Kane said. "For us, it’s a year we want to make a statement throughout the league and to ourselves and it all starts tonight."
Kane will be on Winnipeg’s second line tonight with Devin Setoguchi and rookie centre Mark Scheifele.
"I feel the best I’ve ever felt," Scheifele, who has started the previous two seasons with the Jets before being returned to junior, said this morning. "I feel confident, I feel strong. The past few years maybe I felt a little intimidated a little and this I feel like I fit with any guy in the league, skate with anyone. I can’t wait to get it started."
Tonight also marks the first game for former Winnipeg Jets defenceman and Manitoba Moose captain Dallas Eakins as Oilers head coach.
Eakins said this morning he wasn’t too caught up in the event, not like he was when he made his NHL playing debut for the Jets in 1992-93.
"I think I was trembling when I played my first NHL game," he said. "I’m much more at ease now than I was then.
"I haven’t thought much about it. I think you get so busy that you’re into it. I’m just so excited to get going, to get playing, see where we’re at."
The Jets and Oilers played one game in Winnipeg in the 2011-12 season, and not at all in the lockout year. Tonight’s game marks the first visit by a Jets team to Edmonton since March, 1996.
Updated on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 5:06 PM CDT: Adds live blog feed.
9:26 PM: Adds Jets goal
9:30 PM: Adds game tied
11:58 PM: Adds game score
12:23 AM: Adds full write-through, slide show
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