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Puljujarvi scores twice as Oilers edge inexperienced Jets squad

With a very inexperienced lineup, the Winnipeg Jets’ young prospects fought to the bitter end but still came up short against the Edmonton Oilers with their big stars.

The Jets dressed only four of their regular forwards from last season in a 4-3 loss to the Oilers on Saturday in pre-season action.

The Jets battled back from a two-goal third period deficit to tie the game at three apiece, but surrendered the game-winning goal with just 1:56 left in regulation.

“Resiliency in this group. We’ve seen it all year last year,” Kyle Connor said. “We don’t give up. We’re always going to fight no matter who’s on the ice. We got down 3-1 there and there was no quit, no hesitation in our group, and we’re a pretty confident group even though it’s pre-season.

“You want to look forward to that challenge, especially going up against – they had a pretty veteran lineup tonight and everybody kinda gets up for that even though it’s pre-season.”

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Jesse Puljujarvi scored a pair of goals to lead the way for Edmonton. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl each chipped in with two assists in the one-goal victory.

Connor, Mark Scheifele and Josh Morrissey all had goals for the Jets in the loss as they fall to 1-1-1 for the pre-season.

“You wanna win every game you play,” said head coach Paul Maurice. “I don’t care if it’s exhibition or not. So you get back in that game and you want a better result. But I think those ‘D’ pairings are going to be just fine for us. They are really going to work well. It’s still a real competition for those open jobs on our fourth line and they’re making it tough.”

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Despite an inexperienced group of forwards, the Jets used two of their top three defensive pairings. Morrisey, Nate Schmidt, Brenden Dillon,  and Neal Pionk all played against the Oil.

Making his second start in exhibition, Eric Comrie stopped 23 of 27 shots in his second straight loss.

“It’s still a little bit of rust, but I’m still shaking it off a little bit,” Comrie said. “I felt better tonight than I did last game. I know there’s some things that happened tonight that I wouldn’t have liked, but there’s also a lot of really good in that game.

“My positioning felt a lot better. My rebound control once again felt really good. I made some good stick plays behind the net. Just little things I can build upon.”

Mikko Koskinen made 31 saves between the pipes for the Oilers.

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The Jets killed off an early penalty and only moments later, Dominic Toninato was denied from in close. Kristian Vesalainen was first on the rebound, but he lost the puck and it went right to Connor, who fired the puck past Koskinen for his second goal of the pre-season.

The Oilers came on strong late in the opening stanza. A speeding McDavid took the pass and went in alone, but he just missed the target, hitting the side of the net.

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Edmonton soon went back on the man advantage though and Draisaitl threw the puck towards the net from long range, and it ricocheted off Puljujarvi and in past Comrie.

The game was all even after the first period where the shots were 13-9 in the Jets’ favour.

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Jansen Harkins had a glorious chance to get the Jets the lead back midway through the middle frame. The puck squirted over to Harkins just outside the crease with Koskinen way out of position. But Koskinen got just enough of the puck with his glove to deflect the shot wide.

The Oilers took their first lead with just over seven minutes left in the period. Brendan Perlini’s blue line blast was tipped in by Devin Shore.

Just 1:40 later, McDavid fed the pass to Puljujarvi just outside the top of the circle, and his slap shot beat Comrie clean. The Oilers had a two-goal lead going to the final frame. The shots were 13-9 for Edmonton in the period.

The Jets cut the lead in half in the third. Declan Chisholm made a perfect setup and Scheifele had the tap-in to make it a 3-2 game.

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READ MORE: Svechnikov, Harkins shine as Jets breeze past Oilers in preseason play

Two minutes after that, Evgeny Svechnikov spotted a pinching Morrissey. He deposited the one-timer and suddenly the game was tied.

But with under two minutes left to play, Draisaitl stripped Pionk of the puck in the neutral zone and made a phenomenal backhand pass to an open Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and he roofed it on Comrie for the game-winning goal.

Nelson Nogier left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

“Really pre-cautionary,” Maurice said. “Anybody that’s got anything now – we don’t want to make it worse.”

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The Jets get right back at it on Sunday. Winnipeg plays the fourth of their six-game exhibition schedule against the Vancouver Canucks starting at 6:00 p.m.

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