The Winnipeg Jets are still proving it’s not how you start, but rather how you finish.
The Jets (5-2) were on the positive end of another third-period flurry of goals on Tuesday night, outlasting the Edmonton Oilers (3-5) in a see-saw battle for a 6-4 win at Bell MTS Place.
Three goals in the span of a little over three minutes, all for the home side, changed the complexity of this game – one that saw a nightmare first period for both defences followed by a buttoned-down second, and another loose period in the third in which the ice was seemingly tilted towards the Oilers’ end.
It’s the third time this season the Jets have come back to win a game after trailing through the first two periods.
“A bit of a tough start for us,” Jets forward Adam Lowry said. “You give up those two early powerplay goals, and the first period wasn’t our best, but I think we re-grouped. We got a lot of belief in our room in the firepower we have. We got great leadership. I think that showed. I think you look at kinda the second period – we started to really play the style of game that makes us successful.”
Nikolaj Ehlers’ four-point night propelled him to the top of the Jets’ scoring table, extending his goal-scoring streak to five games, now a career high. He’s also just one point shy of Connor McDavid and Mitch Marner for the league lead with 11.
“I feel really good, right,” Ehlers said. “My legs are working with me, and my teammates, my linemates, are playing great. I think we all feel pretty good about the start of the season, and now it’s a matter of putting a full 60 (minutes) together.”
The Jets’ second line of Ehlers, Andrew Copp, and Paul Stastny was flying all over the ice. Copp also had four points, including his second two-goal game in just the last three contests.
“I feel like I’ve expanded my game,” Copp said. “I haven’t really tried to change it too much. But I’ve tried to increase my offensive output, just make a few more plays, be a little bit more crisp, execute, and it kinda came to fruition tonight.”
Copp, Ehlers, and Lowry are all now riding five-game point streaks. Lowry had a goal and two assists in the rematch against the Oilers.
Lowry now has four goals in just seven games this season, after scoring four times in 49 games last season.
After the Jets took a two goal lead in the final frame, the Oilers scored with under two minutes remaining to make it interesting. But unlike 48 hours earlier, the Jets were able to score into the empty net and hang on for the victory.
“Play the Edmonton Oilers and you’re taking a lead late – you want as much cushion as you can possibly get,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “You won’t be happy about the goal that we gave up, but we had earned the cushion.”
Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck had a shaky start to the game, allowing goals on half of the first six shots he faced – but he’d only let in one more goal on the last 19 shots.
Leon Draisaitl, who scored the game-winner with .7 seconds left in regulation on Sunday to sink the Jets, picked up right where he left off – scoring on an early power-play just 108 seconds into the game to put the Oilers ahead.
It didn’t take long for Copp to draw even.
With Lowry in front of the net on the Jets’ first power-play of the game, Copp picked up a rebound from an Ehlers’ shot and stuffed it past an outstretched Mikko Koskinen, who appeared unhappy with this goal in his own right.
Koskinen would finish with 27 saves on 32 shots for a .844 save percentage.
Oilers’ defenceman Adam Larsson kept the scoring going in the 10th minute of the first, wiring a rising wrist shot past a screened Hellebuyck to give the visitors the lead right back.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins extended the Oilers’ advantage on another powerplay, when the Jets defenders were caught watching a streaking McDavid before he fired a pass across the slot.
Just as the scorekeepers likely began looking for a second game sheet to fill in the events of the first period, Larsson was sent off for the fourth penalty of the game.
Mathieu Perreault wasn’t able to keep the power plays perfect with his first goal of the year, which came just three seconds after Larsson stepped out of the penalty box – but he did get the Jets back within a goal.
The Oilers would take another minor – this one a Jesse Puljujarvi hold on Mason Appleton – but the Jets couldn’t capitalize.
Both Blake Wheeler, who was tangled up with defenceman Ethan Bear, and Nikolaj Ehlers, who was run into by a sliding Kyle Turris, were injured just seconds apart.
Wheeler returned for his next shift, while Ehlers didn’t see the ice for the rest of the period.
The second period didn’t have the whistles the players saw in the first, but the Jets had several high-danger scoring chances amid 7:49 of continuous play.
Zack Kassian was whistled for the period’s only penalty, which the Oilers killed off in its near-entirety before the horn sounded.
Ehlers kicked off the third with a bang, finishing a brilliant play from Paul Stastny to knot the game at three just 3:39 into the period.
Their very next shift, the Stastny-Ehlers duo connected again.
A sprawling Copp tried knocking in a loose puck that Ehlers threw on net – and Stastny was there to deposit the rebound, giving the Jets the lead just 1:58 after they tied the game.
Lowry provided the Jets’ cushion when he out-muscled McDavid as he went to the top of the crease – redirecting a hard pass from Derek Forbort into the open net for the Jets’ fifth goal.
It was the Jets’ third goal in 198 seconds of game time.
The Oilers’ captain burned Scheifele on the wall and scored his fifth of the season, making for a compelling final two minutes before Copp’s empty net goal sealed the win.
Josh Morrissey led the home side in ice time, clocking 26:14, while defenceman Darnell Nurse was the most oft-used Oiler, logging 29:01.
The Jets finished a run of five games in seven nights with the win, and will now enjoy several days off before resuming their seven-game homestand on Saturday, hosting the Vancouver Canucks.
The Oilers are back at home on Thursday after their four-game road trip, hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The two teams meet again on Monday, Feb. 15.
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