WINNIPEG - Nikolaj Ehlers looks like he has recovered nicely from his leg injury sustained in Game 5 of the opening round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues back in April.
The Danish forward made his 2019 preseason debut for the Winnipeg Jets and had a goal, an assist plus a team leading eight shots on goal, however, his effort wasn't enough to put the Jets over the top, as Blues took a 4-3 decision in overtime.
"Nikky was flying tonight. Had about 13 shot attempts," smiled Paul Maurice.
"Priority one for Nikky is us getting him back to thinking he's a shooter not trying to give Patty Laine the puck every time he touches the ice. So he looked like he was back to old self shooting everything, we like that."
Also playing his first preseason game was Connor Hellebuyck who wasn't that busy, making 11 saves on 15 shots.
"It felt great. I was getting antsy, I wanted to get in there," said Hellebuyck when asked about how it felt to get into game action.
"First period there weren't that many shots (four). Once they got going and things started rolling in the second I got a couple of shots and started feeling a lot better. All in all, I liked the way I felt, I liked a lot of things in my game but I don't like losing so I'm going to back to the drawing board and get better."
5:32 into the opening period the Blues scored first. St. Louis pounced on a neutral zone turnover, Sammy Blais skated to the Jets blueline and left the puck for Klim Kostin who skated in and snuck a shot inside Connor Hellebuyck's blocker.
St. Louis would make it 2-0, this time during a 2-on-1. Klim Kostin slid a pass that just got under Luke Green's stick and Joel Edmundson tapped it in behind Hellebuyck at 12:11.
Ehlers stole the puck from Blues defenceman Mitch Reinke at the Jets blueline, skated in alone on Jake Allen beating him through the five hole and that cut the lead to one at 12:49.
Video: STL@WPG: Ehlers scores after great defensive play
"It felt good. It was nice to get back out there again," said Ehlers of his return to game action.
"It's been a long summer so it felt good."
Just under seven minutes into the second, Andrew Copp threw a perfect pass cross ice to Ehlers whose shot would go off the far post and Adam Lowry was in the right place at the right time to slam home the tying goal.
Video: STL@WPG: Lowry taps in Ehlers' rebound down low
"Lows (Lowry) told me he thought it was in (Ehlers shot) and he put it in for fun," smiled Ehlers.
"Thank God he did that."
No scoring in the third but with 3:01 left in the period, a fortunate bounce came off the end boards right to Mark Letestu and he would throw the puck out front to Bourque who gave the Jets the lead for the first time on the night. The offseason signing looked comfortable with his linemates Letestu and Mathieu Perreault throughout the evening.
Video: STL@WPG: Bourque caps Letestu's effort down low
"It was fun to play with them," said Bourque.
"Easy and older guys so they know the game. Really smart out there so it was fun."
But St. Louis would pull even with the goaltender out in favour of the extra attacker and it was David Perron beating Hellebuyck blocker side with 32.4 seconds left.
Perron scored the game winner 1:58 into the extra frame coming down the left side, cutting into the middle and snapping a quick shot into the net.
"You want to win every game no matter what type of game it is," said Ehlers.
"But I think we played a really good game. We worked hard, tough luck."
The Jets have Saturday off and will return to action Sunday at Bell MTS Place at 7 PM CT against the Calgary Flames.