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This article was published 15/2/2021 (253 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It was shades of the old Smythe Division days, back when the likes of Hawerchuk, Steen and Carlyle regularly went toe-to-toe, and goal-for-goal, with the likes of Gretzky, Kurri and Coffey.
In other words, defence was optional. But in the end, the modern-day Winnipeg Jets outgunned the modern-day Edmonton Oilers Monday night in a 6-5 barnburner at Rogers Place.
Winnipeg improves to 9-5-1. Edmonton falls to 9-8-0.
This one wasn't for the faint of heart, especially for two head coaches who have been trying to get their teams more focused on play in their own end. But with so much speed and skill on either side, perhaps it was inevitable a Wild West shootout broke out on the ice.
"That's a perfect example why coach's years and dog years are the same. The lives lost on the bench between Dave Tippett and myself tonight," joked Jets coach Paul Maurice. "It was not a particularly well-played game. Except the skill level at some parts of that was so extreme. If you had fans in the building, that was a roller-coaster for everybody."
The Jets led by three goals at the midway mark of the game and perhaps they could put this one on cruise control after so many tightly-contested battles early in the young season. But not even three minutes into the third period, it was all tied up, Winnipeg seemingly hanging on for dear life.
Could they be on their way to another excruciating loss? After all, three of their five regulation defeats so far this season have come in the final two minutes of play — including one against these very Oilers back on Jan. 24 with just 0.7 seconds left. The other two came last week — with 1:42 left against Calgary, and then eight seconds remaining against Ottawa.
What fresh hell might they unleash on their fragile fan base this time around?
Jets captain Blake Wheeler put those fears to rest when he had the last laugh, and the last goal, when he tipped a Josh Morrissey point shot at 6:22 of the final frame for what proved to be the game-winner.
"I don't think that's the way the coaches drew it up. Or the goaltenders. It sure made for some great hockey to watch. Definitely more fun on the winning side," said Jets forward Kyle Connor.
This was the start of a four-game road trip for Winnipeg, and they began it right when Mark Scheifele gave them an early 1-0 lead with his seventh of the year just 6:30 into the game. The quick strike was just a sign of things to come.
Alex Chiasson got in behind Winnipeg defenceman Dylan DeMelo and beat Connor Hellebuyck at 11:03 for his first of the season to tie it up. The Jets grabbed the advantage back at 12:50 when Connor made a terrific hand-eye play to knock down a bouncing puck and fire it past Mike Smith.
"You know those plays happen so fast, a lot of it is reactionary. I'm in the slot there, they're trying to clear it, it's in the air and I'm trying to knock it down and get possession. A lot of times, especially when they have the puck, I don't think the goalie's expecting a shot. I just kinda knocked it down and my mentality is just to shoot it quick," said Connor.
Turns out the three goals in the opening 20 minutes were just the appetizer.
Mason Appleton made it 3-1 lead 49 seconds into the period, firing a low hard shot past Smith after a nice zone entry and drop pass from Scheifele. Nikolaj Ehlers gave Winnipeg a 4-1 buffer at 2:31 with his team-leading 10th of the young season. It looked like the rout might be on.
Tippett had seen enough, giving Smith the hook. And that seemed to light a fire under the Oilers. First, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored on a Tic-Tac-Toe passing play at 9:12 with his team enjoying a man advantage. Then Kailer Yamamoto tipped a Darnell Nurse point shot at 12:57.
Back came the Jets, with Mathieu Perreault deflecting a Neal Pionk at 14:15 past Mikko Koskinen. But the much-needed breathing room was short-lived, as Chiasson scored his second of the night at 17:39.
"It's just one of those games where they were trailing by a couple in the second, they started opening it up and we kind of let off the gas for a bit. If you do that on any team, but especially with the type of players they have over there, they're going to put a couple in your net," said Connor.
Edmonton tied the game just 2:55 into the third period, with Nugent-Hopkins striking again. But then Wheeler seized all the lost momentum back for his club with one nifty net-front deflection.
"That was a big goal for us. He plays the game the right way, 60 minutes, he's our leader and captain. That's what you want, going to the hard areas, go to the net and get a tip. That was a big goal, a big-game winner," said Connor.
Incredibly, that was all she wrote. Winnipeg managed to lock things down the rest of the way, with Hellebuyck making several big stops including one on Connor McDavid with just a minute left to play.
Hellebuyck finished with 40 saves on the night.
"To answer back in the third was big for us," said Scheifele, who added two assists and is now up to a team-leading 21 points on the season. "There’s things that we want to tighten up but all in all, we got the win, that’s what we come here for, to get the two points. And we got that, so that’s really all that matters."
The two teams will meet again on Wednesday night. After that, it's on to Vancouver for two more on the weekend.
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.