EDMONTON, Alberta – The Winnipeg Jets extended their winning streak to five Monday night, defeating the struggling Edmonton Oilers 4-1 at Rexall Place.
Drew Stafford, Lee Stempniak, Tyler Myers and Michael Frolik did the damage offensively, while Ondrej Pavelec had another exceptional outing between the pipes, recording 33 saves in the victory – his fifth straight.
With the win, the Jets improve to 38-23-12 for 88 points on the year, four up on the Los Angeles Kings, who also recorded a victory on this night, 3-1 over the New Jersey Devils.
“Based on the two games we played prior with Edmonton, I’m happy with the way we played,” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “It wasn’t perfect, but we’re scratching and clawing right now. … (Pavelec) made some huge saves. He’s on his game and he’s sharp. He’s been great.”
“It feels good,” added Pavelec, who was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week earlier in the day.
“The guys in front of me played really well. We got the win and that’s most important.”
The Jets opened the scoring with a beautiful goal seven-and-a-half minutes into the game. Anticipating the play, Stafford picked off a poorly timed and ill-crafted D-to-D pass by Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom, racing in alone before snapping a shot under the arm of Ben Scrivens. Stafford came into the night with eight goals in nine career games against the Oilers. With his 16th of the season and seventh as a Jet, make it nine in 10 for No. 12.
“I think there were some parts where we maybe got away from our game a little bit,” Stafford said.
“They gave them a little more than we wanted to, and that’s when Pav bailed us out with some big saves.”
The Oilers had a wonderful opportunity to equalize moments later, but Derek Roy failed to convert on a 2-on-1 with Nail Yakupov.
Blake Wheeler left the game late in the opening frame after taking a deflected puck off the face, but he returned – minus a few chiclets – for the beginning of the third.
“He wasn’t waiting to come back. He was getting fixed. That’s how long it took,” Maurice said. “It took a long time to get him repaired. It’s ugly.”
The Jets led in shots on goal (7-6) and shot attempts (14-13) after one period of play. The Oilers had the lone power-play chance of the period, but failed to generate much of anything.
The Jets extended to a 2-0 lead at 5:31 of the second period. Pouncing on a loose puck in the blue paint, Stempniak made the most of a goalmouth scramble, slipping behind coverage before nudging the biscuit between the wickets of the netminder.
“It’s always important to get the lead, but it was very important tonight against Edmonton,” Pavelec said. “They’ve got some skilled players that can make some plays. They’re playing without any pressure right now and they have nothing to lose, but I think we handled it pretty well.”
Myers put the game away with a power-play goal at 16:00 even. With Mark Fayne and Martin Marincin both off serving separate infractions, four seconds apart (slashing and high-sticking, respectively), the visitors made good on the extended 5-on-3. Less than a minute into the man-advantage, Myers rifled a seeing-eye wrister off the far post and in, giving the Jets a commanding 3-0 lead.
“We went into it knowing we didn’t want to do anything fancy – keep it simple and if there’s a lane, get it to the net,” Myers said. “I saw where their D were and where their top guy was. They were in a triangle and we were in a box, so I had a lane.
“It’s a big win. Especially with a back-to-back, the first game is real important.”
Taylor Hall was assessed a cross-checking penalty soon after, giving the Jets their third power-play chance of the evening, but it was the Oilers who had the better of the offensive opportunities. Pavelec stood tall, however, robbing Benoit Pouliot with a nifty left pad save in the final minute of the period.
The Oilers cut into the lead early in the third as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins recorded his team-leading 23rd of the year, ripping a shot top shelf on Pavelec at 1:10.
A shorthanded 2-on-1 between Stempniak and Andrew Ladd gave the Jets a glorious opportunity to respond, but Scrivens came up with an enormous save, punching the shot to safety after it was released by earlier goal-scorer.
Frolik added an insurance marker with 7:43 to play, hammering a rebound past Scrivens for the Jets’ second power-play goal of the night.
“I think we scored at the right times,” Pavelec said. “When it was 3-1, you never know what’s going to happen. We scored the next one and it was huge.
“We have to keep going. We’ve got to be ready for tomorrow in Vancouver.”
— Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com