EDMONTON — The Winnipeg Jets got plenty of help on the out-of-town scoreboard Saturday night. But then they came up just short of boosting their own playoff chances on the ice, dropping a tough 3-2 decision to the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.

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EDMONTON — The Winnipeg Jets got plenty of help on the out-of-town scoreboard Saturday night. But then they came up just short of boosting their own playoff chances on the ice, dropping a tough 3-2 decision to the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.

Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins snapped a tie with 5:16 left in the third period to give the home team a big two points in the Western Conference playoff battle. Winnipeg heads home empty-handed, despite outshooting the Oilers 41-22 and getting tons of chances in the dying minutes of play to score the equalizer.

Winnipeg Jets' Neal Pionk (4) checks Edmonton Oilers' Caleb Jones (82) during the second period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg Jets' Neal Pionk (4) checks Edmonton Oilers' Caleb Jones (82) during the second period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

"To play as hard as we did tonight and then lose, that’s a painful one," said coach Paul Maurice.

Winnipeg falls to 33-28-6 and remains one point out of the final wildcard playoff spot. They could have leapfrogged both Calgary and Nashville, who lost in regulation earlier in the night, with a victory. Edmonton improves to 34-23-6 and sit second in the Pacific Division.

"It doesn’t matter how you play, you’ve got to get results this time of year. We’re in a position where we’re tied with five minutes left in the game, we can’t leave with zero. You just can’t do it," said captain Blake Wheeler.

Special teams were a big story in this one. Edmonton's league-leading power play went a perfect two-for-two, with Connor McDavid setting up Leon Draisaitl both times. The first came 6:27 into the game with Dylan DeMelo in the box for tripping to give Edmonton a 1-0 lead. The second came with 13 seconds left in the second period and Dmitry Kulikov in the box for holding to tie it at 2-2.

The two tallies brought Draisaitl over the century mark in points for the second straight year, now leading all players with 102. McDavid isn't very far behind him with 89.

Winnipeg Jets' Dmitry Kulikov (7) is chased by Edmonton Oilers' Alex Chiasson (39) during the second period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg Jets' Dmitry Kulikov (7) is chased by Edmonton Oilers' Alex Chiasson (39) during the second period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

"Hand skills at the end. There’s two plays there that we’ve been able to get clears on. On the first one, we scrum that to the corner. We get stopped at the line twice. We just couldn’t get a handle on that puck. And the same thing happened on the second one . Their hand skills took over, they peel it off the wall, get it off to the point, find a shot, tip in front. They’ve got two certainly world class dynamic players," said Maurice.

The Jets came into the game with the NHL's best penalty killing unit in February, going 31-for-33 including 19 straight successful kills. But the Oilers made it look all too easy, as if they had the cheat code on how to convert. They're running at close to a 30 per cent success rate this season, which is the best of any team in almost three decades — since the Oilers of the early 80s, in fact.

In between the Draisaitl goals, Winnipeg scored twice in an impressive middle frame they dominated for large stretches.

First up was a rare goal from the team's fourth line, as Nick Shore made a beautiful pass to Logan Shaw, who went in all alone on Edmonton goalie Mike Smith and scored his third of the season at 13:23.

Winnipeg Jets' Anthony Bitetto (2) and Edmonton Oilers' Zack Kassian (44) battle for the puck during the first period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg Jets' Anthony Bitetto (2) and Edmonton Oilers' Zack Kassian (44) battle for the puck during the first period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

"It was a hell of a pass. I was screamin' for that puck as loud as I could as I saw the opening," said Shaw, who was only in the lineup to take the place of injured sniper Patrik Laine.

"It's definitely nice to contribute. We know how we have to play. Sometimes offence doesn't come that easy, but there's other things that we can do. It's definitely nice to get rewarded," he said.

The tie didn't last long. Wheeler made an all-world pass to linemate Kyle Connor just 34 seconds later for the go-ahead goal. Connor's team-leading 33rd of the year is also the 100th of his young NHL career.

"We played a pretty good game. Everybody was battling. It was a full team effort. Everybody was blocking shots. We got scoring from depth players and it’s too bad we couldn’t come out with at least a point there," said Connor, who is now one off his career high of 34 goals set last season.

Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) and Edmonton Oilers' Darnell Nurse (25) battle for the puck during the first period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) and Edmonton Oilers' Darnell Nurse (25) battle for the puck during the first period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg probably should have extended its advantage, with Mark Scheifele alone having at least four Grade A chances. He finished the game with 12 shot attempts, but only four that hit the net. At one point, he angrily switched his stick, perhaps hoping the new one had a better radar system.

With clock ticking down and overtime looking like a distinct possibility, the Jets lost control of a puck in their own zone and paid dearly. Jansen Harkins tried to chip it out but had it stopped at the line, then seemingly lost coverage of his man down low, along with defenceman Nathan Beaulieu.

Draisaitl fed Nugent-Hopkins, who wired a shot past Connor Hellebuyck.

"I think everybody on the bench worked their ass off, so to single any one guy out for a mistake made, I’m not comfortable doing that. I get it, it’s pro sports. I’ll leave it to you enough. Just we had a bit of a turnover there and the guy made a good shot," Maurice said when asked to describe what he saw on the play.

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) is chased by Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) during the first period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) is chased by Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) during the first period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

Winnipeg had a final, frantic flurry with Hellebuyck pulled for an extra attacker but couldn't find a way to get one more puck past Smith.

"That was some pretty good zone time there. We pretty much had the puck the whole time. I mean, just a couple of bounces here or there. If we’re in the right spots, that’s a tie game right there. But that’s the way she goes," said Connor.

There was a real playoff intensity to this one, with both team desperate to get on a run here as the calendar flips to March. For the Jets, this was a start of 11 games in their final 16 where they'll play one of the seven teams grouped closest to them in the West.

"I love it. Playoff hockey's awesome, and that's what we're playing from here on out. To be in a game like that at this time of year, it's pretty awesome. That's what you play for," said Shaw.

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97), Leon Draisaitl (29) and Alex Chiasson (39) celebrate a goal during the first period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97), Leon Draisaitl (29) and Alex Chiasson (39) celebrate a goal during the first period. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

The Jets will now have a couple days to try to process this one, as they begin a three-game homestand Tuesday night against Buffalo.

"You’re angry with yourself if you don’t come in with your best. But you’re exceptionally frustrated when you play the way we did and you lose a hockey game because you know the stakes. But the next one’s going to get played, the puck’s going to get dropped, and you should be a hockey team coming into that one knowing your game’s right," said Maurice.

"They’ll come to the rink in a couple days feeling confident in their game. And they should. But it’s going to sting. This one will for a while."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.