Episode 1 was not all it was cracked up to be.
Ondrej Palat scored 36 seconds into the extra session, finishing off a pass from Steven Stamkos on a three-on-one, lifting the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 4-3 victory.
The goal came moments after Bryan Little was stopped on a breakaway, turning the play back the other way.
Result aside, it sure was entertaining.
Braydon Coburn, Cedric Paquette and Vladislav Namestnikov provided the offence in regulation time, while Ben Bishop made 33 saves. Nikolaj Ehlers, Drew Stafford and Blake Wheeler scored for the Jets.
With his goal – scored shorthanded early in the third period – Wheeler has now recorded at least a point in all seven games this season, tying a franchise record.
“It was an exciting game,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “There was a good pace and lots of speed. It wasn’t nearly as physical as the last one, but just as exciting.
“One team was good in the first and the third – that was us – and one was real good in the second period.”
The Bolts opened the scoring at 12:17 as Coburn took a pass from Tyler Johnson and blasted a shot top shelf on Ondrej Pavelec – a shot so hard, few saw it enter and exit the net, as it ricocheted off the back bar and disappeared soon after.
Pavelec finished with 27 saves.
Ehlers levelled the count with three-and-a-half to play, finishing off the feed from Mark Scheifele with a beautiful shot far side, squeezing it under the arm of the goaltender.
The youngster was at it again in the final minute of the first, but he was unable to convert on a 2-on-1 with Mathieu Perreault, pelting the near post after receiving the cross in tight.
“We’ve been playing together since the beginning of the season,” Ehlers said. “We’re all getting more comfortable playing with each other, which is really good. We’ve got to continue what we’ve been doing.”
Ehlers was flying all night, recording five shots in just over 17 minutes of ice time. He had a glorious chance to end the game with less than eight ticks left in the third period, but his backhand shot on a rolling puck grazed the glove-side goalpost.
“He’s just got great instincts,” Wheeler said of the rookie. “His hockey sense is probably his biggest asset, and for a guy as talented as he is, that’s saying a lot. Some guys just have that recognition. They can see a play developing and he seems to be able to jump into those holes.
Shots on goal favoured the Jets 11-6 after one period of play.
The Jets came close on a power-play chance early in the second, but were stymied on the goal line. A high, hard shot from Dustin Byfuglien nearly found the net, but Tampa defender Victor Hedman saved the day, sweeping to safety.
Paquette put the visitors up 2-1 with his first of the season at 7:22, firing a shot short side as he barrelled in on his off wing.
Stafford tied it up with his third of the season at 10:58, capitalizing on the springy feed from Adam Lowry along the half wall. Losing his footing on a breakaway in tight, he was unable to get a good shot off, but the failed try fooled Bishop and puck slid five-hole.
“It’s tough to lose in that kind of fashion,” Stafford said. “We have to make sure that if we miss our chance (in overtime), if you’re already out there for 30 seconds, be aware of the possession. It’s so hard. There’s so much space and everyone’s so fast at this level that one little mistake…”
It was a 2-2 game for all of 23 seconds before the Lightning struck again.
After Hedman’s point shot was knocked down in front, the puck sat in the middle of the blue paint, where Namestnikov shovelled it home for the go-ahead goal.
The Jets were outshot 16-8 in the second period.
Fear not. The Jets have a flair for the dramatic, after all
With Toby Enstrom in the box, and with Bishop mishandling the puck behind his own net, Wheeler gained possession, circled out front and deposited a backhander into the yawning cage.
The Jets led the NHL with 10 shorthanded goals last season. They already have two this year.
“He just plays that way every single night,” Maurice said of Wheeler. “He’s hit that maturity level where he can come to the rink and have a real strong idea of how he’s going to play on any given night. He gives everything he can.”
The Jets are back in action on Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Wild. The puck drops at 5:00pm CT and you catch it live on TSN3.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com