The Winnipeg Jets have played a lot of good games this year. Monday night wasn’t one of them.
Mike Smith stopped 36 shots and Connor McDavid had a hat trick to give the Edmonton Oilers a 6-1 win as the Jets longest losing streak of the season continued with a fourth straight defeat.
The Jets actually outshot the Oilers in all three periods. But the Jets had a terrible time protecting the puck and gave up countless odd man rushes in surrendering six goals in the opening 40 minutes, and the Oilers coasted through the third period to leap frog the Jets in the North Division standings into second place.
“You’re going to go through these throughout the year,” forward Paul Stastny said. “I’m sure every other team has already gone through a four-game losing streak – we hadn’t. But it’s not even about the four-game losing streak. I think it’s just the way we’ve been playing for, I don’t know, 10, 15, 20 games. Sometimes we got away with it.
“It’s everybody, it’s not just certain guys. I think everybody has a little cheat in their game, and we got to be more honest.”
The Jets played without injured forwards Nikolaj Ehlers and Adam Lowry. Head coach Paul Maurice revealed earlier on Monday that Ehlers will miss the rest of the regular season.
Ehlers was left wincing after a seemingly standard hit from Toronto’s Jake Muzzin in Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Leafs. The Dane is having the best season of his career, currently second in team scoring with 46 points and one goal behind Kyle Connor’s 22. Ehlers is expected to return for the playoffs.
With Ehlers’ absence, Paul Maurice shuffled his lines as Andrew Copp and Mason Appleton skated alongside Mark Scheifele on the top line. Kristian Vesalainen, appearing in his ninth NHL game this year, and first in more than two months, lined up next to Stastny and Mathieu Perreault on the third line.
But you can’t blame the new line combinations for their seven costly giveaways on Monday according to the head coach.
“This would be fundamental, it would not be the lines structure, chemistry issue with the lines,” Maurice said. “They were completely changed here tonight. The decision process with the puck wasn’t based on the combinations.”
The Jets have just one victory in their last seven home games, and while their division rivals like the Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs have adjusted to the more playoff style hockey, the Jets have been left in their dust sputtering along.
“We missed the gear change coming off the road,” said Maurice. “We had four of those pucks tonight that we need to make a decision based on the game that’s being played now and not the game that was played two weeks ago. So that gear change happens, and its happened with the two teams that are now ahead of us in the standings in our division. And tonight it just blew up on us.”
Three of the Oilers’ goals were scored directly off Jets’ turnovers.
Connor Hellebuyck allowed six goals on 23 shots before getting the mercy pull after two periods.
“It was enough,” Maurice said. “I don’t want Connor skating off the ice in that game cause he made a bunch of saves. I didn’t have him for any of them. I didn’t want him coming off the ice during the period and making that skate. So, after two, he had had enough work.”
Laurent Brossoit stopped all seven shots he faced in the final frame.
The Oilers have now beaten the Jets in their last five consecutive meetings.
The potential playoff preview went back and forth immediately after puck drop with both teams getting some solid looks on net. McDavid’s partial break tested Hellebuyck early after Tucker Poolman couldn’t handle a loose puck and the Jets went right back at the Oilers as Neal Pionk stepped up and unleashed a bomb at Smith.
The initial tempo of the game got the best of Darnell Nurse whose late cross-check on Jansen Harkins gave the Jets the first power play of the game. Blake Wheeler quarterbacked the first powerplay unit and the Jets got a number of shots off, but the Oilers did well to keep the puck to the outside as their best defenceman watched from the penalty box.
A hard forecheck from Leon Draisaitl below the Jets’ goal line kept the puck away from Tucker Poolman before the reigning Hart Trophy winner fed the puck to a waiting Adam Larsson in the slot. Larsson immediately dished the puck to Alex Chiasson who fired a low one-timer past Hellebuyck’s right pad on the Oilers’ ninth shot of the game. Scoring for Edmonton snowballed from there.
The Oilers rode the momentum after some miscommunication between Pierre-Luc Dubois and Connor as they entered the offensive zone. McDavid picked up the loose puck, crossed the blue line and dropped it back to Tyson Barrie who sent it toward Hellebuyck hoping Jesse Puljujärvi could get a stick on it. The puck bounced off the young Fin’s leg landing right on the stick of the league leader in points for an easy tap in giving the Oilers a 2-0 lead heading into the second period.
McDavid had eight points (2G, 6A) in his previous three games and before tonight’s game was 25 minutes old, he’d added two more goals. Early in the second period McDavid’s backhand attempt on a breakaway was stopped by Hellebuyck, but the Oilers centreman regrouped and came down the left wing with a burst of speed on the same shift and snuck one under the left pad. The Oilers and Jets have played eight times so far this year and McDavid has recorded multi-point games every single time these two teams have faced each other this season.
Scoring quickly got out of hand after Edmonton’s Draisaitl and Nurse scored two just over 90 seconds apart. Both goals were similar one-timers, stretching Hellebuyck to his left and both players ripped the puck glove side. Draisaitl’s goal gave him 488 points on his career, passing Marco Sturm to make him the highest-scoring German player in NHL history.
Late in the second, the Jets finally kept up some sustained pressure on Smith and had Edmonton’s defence on the run before a broken play put the puck on Scheifele’s stick who ripped a wrist shot into the twine past Smith’s glove. Scheifele is now one goal shy of 200 goals and 500 career points.
McDavid scored his ninth career hat trick after another breakaway and about 15 dekes before he lifted the puck just high enough to trickle over Hellebuyck’s outstretched blocker giving the Oilers a 6-1 lead after forty. The Oilers scored six goals on 23 shots on the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and unsurprisingly Brossoit set up between the pipes for the third period.
The Jets held the Oilers off the scoresheet in the final frame, but the Oilers accomplished the task at hand, now sitting one point up on the Jets for second place in the North Division.
The Jets will try to avoid losing five straight games when they lace them up against the Oilers again on Wednesday. The pregame show begins at 6 p.m. on 680 CJOB with the puck dropping shortly after 8 p.m.