EDMONTON, AB – The Winnipeg Jets came all the way back from a 2-0 deficit in the third period, but a late Matt Hendricks penalty shot proved to be the difference in a 3-2 loss at Rexall Place.
Ben Chiarot and Adam Lowry each scored their first of the pre-season Wednesday night to round out the Jets offense.
“I thought for the most part it was a pretty consistent game for us. You get down 2-0 in the third period early on, we did a good job battling back,” Lowry said. “They had two power play goals and a penalty shot goal, so we did a pretty good job limiting their chances. They had some of their big guns, some of their big horses up front in the line-up tonight. Other than our penalty kill, I thought we did a pretty good job neutralizing them.”
Head Coach Paul Maurice anticipated the team would “spend a little time in (their) end,” as he told reporters following the morning skate. The Jets iced a line-up with far less NHL experience than the team who dropped a 1-0 overtime decision to the Minnesota Wild the previous night. But he was impressed with what he saw, and heard.
“I liked being behind that bench, that’s fun. We did some unusual things with the puck but it wasn’t from a lack of effort,” said Maurice. “They were talking. They were up. They played the game to the best of their ability and that’s the way the game is supposed to be played.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two assists in the game, the first coming on Justin Schultz’s power play marker, 10 seconds in to a 5-on-3 Oilers power play. Schultz one-timed a pass from Nugent-Hopkins for the only goal in the opening 40 minutes.
Fast-forward to the third period when hometown product Eric Comrie made his NHL pre-season debut, relieving Michael Hutchinson after the veteran made 22 saves in 40 minutes of work.
“It was unbelievable. Having all the memories come back to me of my brother playing here and all the fun times,” Comrie said. “I was really excited to get out there. When I first touched the ice a rush of emotions came. Just an unbelievable feeling to touch the ice in my first NHL game.”
Comrie would go on to make 10 saves in his NHL debut. The first of two shots to beat him came after Jordan Eberle found a loose puck in front of the Jets netminder on a power play 1:50 into the third.
It was at that time that the Jets found their offensive touch. Chiarot teed off on a one-timer from the point that beat Cam Talbot, then just six minutes later, Lowry’s quick wrist shot from the top of the circle tied things at two apiece.
“I thought in the first period I felt a little sluggish. My timing was a little off on some of the plays in the neutral zone and in our zone,” said Lowry, who played 20:32 in his first pre-season action. “I think going into the second and third period, I started to feel a little more comfortable.”
With the game tied at two, Hendricks was awarded a penalty shot on Comrie, and after faking a shot, he deked to Comrie’s right, and slid the puck past the former member of the Tri-City Americans.
“I didn’t really have a mindset of what he was going to do or anything. So I just thought maybe he’s going to come in a rip a shot,” Comrie said. “I bit on it, and he beat me wide. He still fanned on it. I had a chance on it at the end, but he still snuck it in.”
For Maurice, the evaluation during training camp continues.
“Everybody has to do something well. I don’t think there was anybody in our locker room last year that you couldn’t define their game pretty quickly,” said Maurice. “We have some guys in their first exhibition game ever, and for some guys, their first this year, so I’m just watching them.”
Next up on the schedule for the Jets is a rematch with the Oilers back at MTS Centre on Friday night. Puck drop is set for 7 pm CT.
– Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com