Hellebuyck stands tall but Jets fall short in 2-1 shootout loss to Oilers

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EDMONTON – Few would have imagined a team with the NHL's top two scorers and another possessing one of the league's most talented group of forwards would find themselves in a goaltender's duel.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/11/2021 (444 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

EDMONTON – Few would have imagined a team with the NHL’s top two scorers and another possessing one of the league’s most talented group of forwards would find themselves in a goaltender’s duel.

But that’s exactly what transpired between the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place Thursday night, with Connor Hellebuyck and Stuart Skinner stealing the show. In the end, it was Skinner who would get the last laugh, leading the Oilers to a 2-1 shootout win with a sparkling 45-save performance.

Hellebuyck did all he could to help his team earn a win, finishing with 30 saves. He was unable to find an answer for Connor McDavid or Kyle Turris, both of whom scored in the shootout. Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele were stopped for the Jets.

Winnipeg Jets' Connor Hellebuyck makes a save on Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi as Logan Stanley defends during the second period in Edmonton on Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

“It was a hell of a game. It had all the right elements for hockey, right?” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “It had a little bit of physicality and it had lots of skill and lots of smart, hard play. It was a heck of a game. I really enjoyed that one.” 

The game had a bit of everything — from strong defensive play to a pair of highlight-reel goals to some real angst between two teams that met in the playoffs last season. Tempers came to a boil fewer than five minutes into the night when Logan Stanley and Zack Kassian dropped the gloves for a spirited fight.

It would take 53 minutes and 57 seconds to open the scoring, with Nikolaj Ehlers putting the Jets up 1-0 with his fifth of the season. The goal came after a pair of drop passes, first by Connor and then Scheifele, before Ehlers wired home a high shot past the glove of Skinner.

Edmonton didn’t wait long to even the score. McDavid, the NHL’s reigning MVP, danced through three Jets players and then beat Hellebuyck high blocker to even the game just 28 seconds later. It was McDavid’s 11th goal and 30th point of the season. Only teammate Leon Draisaitl has more points in the NHL, with 17 goals and 33 points.

“I thought both teams were really good. I don’t think it was just a goaltender battle and every person on both teams was playing well,” Hellebuyck said. “It almost had that playoff feel to it and it was a grinder. Two good teams going at it.”

The Jets were then given a glorious opportunity to win the game late, after McDavid was assessed a four-minute high-sticking penalty against Scheifele with 44 seconds left in the third period. Maurice deployed four forwards, with Pierre-Luc Dubois, Blake Wheeler, Scheifele and Connor playing a majority of the man-advantage.

But despite generating several Grade-A scoring chances, the Jets were unable to capitalize. Winnipeg led the extra period in shots, 8-1, and finished the night 0-for-5 on the power play.

“As long as it doesn’t come out as casual. There’s pain in there. We had some good chances, right?” Maurice said. “But no part of that game was sloppy or casual. I thought we probably held onto it a little longer than we needed to on a few of those power-play chances we had but still got some good pucks to the net. I liked our penalty kill an awful lot.”

Winnipeg Jets' Nikolaj Ehlers is chased by Edmonton Oilers' Evan Bouchard during the first period. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

With the loss, the Jets fall to 9-3-4 and snapped a three-game win streak. They also dropped to second in the Central Division after the Minnesota Wild leapfrogged into first following a 7-2 win over the Dallas Stars.

The Oilers improved to 12-4-0 with the victory and moved into top spot in the Pacific Division. They sit one point up on the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks.

Low-scoring games haven’t exactly been a pattern between these two Western Conference teams. In nine regular-season games in 2021, the Jets and Oilers combined for 56 goals – an average of more than six goals per game.

Through the first 15 games this season, the Oilers were averaging an NHL-high four goals a game, while the Jets ranked eighth, with an average of 3.33.

“The goaltenders can make that happen and this game could have been 4-4 and they still would have played well,” Maurice said. “It’s one of those games that if you put it in our building, you would think we played one hell of a game because everything that was close, the crowd goes nuts. It’s a little quiet here when we do that. That’s part of being on the road. It may be my favourite game of the year.”

Earlier this week, the Jets took advantage of a tired Oilers club at the end of a five-games-in-eight-days road trip, defeating Edmonton at home 5-2 Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the Jets were wrapping up a season-long, seven-game homestand where they collected points in six games (5-1-1).

Even Oilers head coach Dave Tippett admitted early Thursday his team was on its last legs by the time they arrived in Winnipeg, but said he felt a different energy coming out of the morning skate. The Oilers have also been much better at home, boasting a 7-1-1 mark at Rogers Place.

Winnipeg Jets' Logan Stanley and Edmonton Oilers' Zack Kassian fight during the first period. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Edmonton looked much better to start Thursday, dictating a fair amount of the opening period despite trailing in shots, 16-10. The frame wasn’t without its drama, with both sides swapping quality chances, only for it to end in a scoreless tie.

Hellebuyck had to stand tall on several saves, including shots in close by Oilers forwards Jesse Puljujarvi, Zach Hyman and Warren Foegele. The Jets best opportunity came while short-handed, with Andrew Copp unable to convert a 2-on-1 with Adam Lowry in the dying seconds before intermission.

It was much of the same in the second period, though the Jets were able to wrestle momentum for longer stretches.

But even though the chances seemed better for the visitors, including multiple opportunities for Jets leading scorer Connor, Winnipeg squandered three trips to the power play. Skinner, making his first start since a Nov. 12 loss to Buffalo, only needed to turn aside one shot while down a man for the six minutes.

“We look back at it and liked a lot of parts of our game. I think we could have buried a couple more chances, their goalie played well,” Connor said. “Helly played great too. I think it was just a really good game, one of those games, back and forth. I think if we play that type of game, we win nine times out of 10. We’re happy with that.”

Hellebuyck was once again the Jets best player in the middle frame. He closed the pads on a shot from the slot by Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and stoned Draisaitl on the penalty kill and again while the Jets were up a man. Hellebuyck then used his stick to break up a dangerous two-on-one, also while the Jets were on the power play.

Skinner made his presence felt in the middle frame, too, especially on a pair of chances from Connor.

Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Copp is stopped by Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner during the first period. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

“We’re finding our identity,” Hellebuyck said. “We’re coming together as a team and we’re playing some good hockey right now.”

The Jets wrap up a short two-game road trip in Vancouver against the Canucks Friday night at Rogers Centre. 

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

History

Updated on Thursday, November 18, 2021 11:13 PM CST: Adds photos

Updated on Thursday, November 18, 2021 11:26 PM CST: Corrects Jets record

Updated on Friday, November 19, 2021 12:07 AM CST: Full write through

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