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Oilers top Jets in 2016 Heritage Classic

Despite loss, Jets proud to have held event in Winnipeg

by Ryan Dittrick @ryandittrick / WinnipegJets.com

WINNIPEG - The experience, they said, was once-in-a-lifetime.

A spectacle - like nothing we'd ever seen before.

From the very announcement several months ago, to now, having enjoyed the week's many festivities - including one of, if not the best and mostly highly anticipated alumni games ever played - the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic made good on those promises, leaving many with all sorts of wonderful memories and 'we were there'-type moments forever engrained in photo and film.

Unfortunately for the home team, just one thing was left out of an otherwise incredible weekend.

Mark Letestu, Darnell Nurse and Zack Kassian scored second-period goals, while Cam Talbot made 31 saves to give the Oilers a 3-0 win over the Jets.

Connor Hellebuyck made 29 saves in a losing cause.

Video: WPG Recap: Jets offense stalls in 3-0 loss to Oilers

The game started at 3:53pm CT after the weather - 'intermittent sunlight,' to be precise - played a factor for the first time this week. Melting ice and excessive glare were the main concerns, prompting NHL executives to play it safe and delay the game until the sun disappeared over the stadium's southwest corner.

"We were told it was going to be about an hour, so obviously you start to (cool down)," Scheifele said. "But once we were told what time (the game would start), we got back into our routine and when we saw the atmosphere out there, we definitely got a bit of a boost."

A lively crowd of more than 33,000 sure heated the place up in a hurry. After a two-hour delay, the temperature at puck drop was a balmy 10.1 degrees.

"The conditions were great," Wheeler said. "It was great weather, they did a great job with the ice. We really couldn't ask for better conditions.

"It took both teams a little bit of time to get their legs under them. It was kind of a whirlwind getting going and getting the heart rate up again. … But I thought we settled in nicely."

The Jets were in total control after a strong first period, until a disastrous power play midway through the second turned the tide in a big way.

Letestu kicked things off with a shorthanded goal, just 21 seconds into a Nurse penalty, after Dustin Byfuglien gave the puck away at the centre point. Letestu jumped on it and made the 125-foot trek downfield before firing a low shot past Hellebuyck.

Then, as the penalty expired, Nurse jumped up in the rush buried a feed from Connor McDavid to put the Oilers up by two at 11:09.

"It was our chance to maybe get a lead and all of a sudden, we're down two goals," Mathieu Perreault said. "It's kind of how this game goes sometimes, but we're going to have to bear down in key times of games and be better."

Video: POSTGAME | Mathieu Perreault

Kassian made it a 3-0 game after Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Benoit Pouliot hounded the Jets, forcing a turnover just inside the blue line. After taking the no-look, behind-the-back pass from Pouliot, Kassian rifled a shot top shelf to put the Oilers up by a commanding margin.

"Those turnovers on good ice, bad ice, whatever, they're going to end up in your net. They were obvious and the result was emphatic," Head Coach Paul Maurice said. "We certainly would have liked to give the fans one reason to get out of their seats today and we couldn't do that…but it was such a spectacular week here in Winnipeg."

Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice

Talbot was the difference early on, stopping 10 Winnipeg shots in a heavily tilted opening frame. Patrik Laine was turned aside twice in the period - once on a beautifully crafted 2-on-1 with Mark Scheifele, and the other in tight after putting the moves on Oilers defenceman Andrej Sekera - and Nikolaj Ehlers had a great chance fall by the wayside as well, leaving the game in scoreless draw through 20 minutes of play.

In the end, those missed opportunities proved costly.

While the loss will end this emotional week on a sour note, Maurice will look back on it with fond memories. He hopes you, the fans will, too.

After all, our city was at the centre of the hockey world - and boy, did we look good.

Be proud, Winnipeg. Be proud.

"There's been a bit of a circus atmosphere that's been in town in the last five days with the kind of hockey that's been played. We don't want to shy away from that; we want to embrace that. We want to become a team that plays in these kind of meaningful, exciting and at some point, pressure-filled games.

"It was great for the city of Winnipeg. We showed ourselves in a very positive light this week."

- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com

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