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Jets spoil Eakins' debut with win over Oilers

by Derek Van Diest /

EDMONTON -- The new guys stole the show Tuesday night, helping the Winnipeg Jets battle back to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 5-4 in the season-opener for both teams at Rexall Place.

Michael Frolik scored his first two goals as a Jet and rookie defenceman Jacob Trouba added his first NHL marker in the victory. Mark Scheifele and Brian Little also scored for Winnipeg, which made its first regular-season visit to Edmonton in 17 years.

Luke Gazdic, Jesse Joensuu, Boyd Gordon and Ales Hemsky scored for the Oilers, who held a 4-2 lead before conceding three consecutive goals in Dallas Eakins' NHL coaching debut.

Trouba stepped in front of cross-ice pass from Taylor Hall at center, took the puck the other way and beat Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk at 11:06 of the third period to tie the game. Frolik then collected the winner at 14:58, converting a behind-the-back feed from Eric Tangradi for an easy tap-in.

"It was a pretty cool experience," Trouba said. "I just kind of threw it on net and it was a bit of a knuckleball. They don't draw it up like that, but it was a goal. I was just excited to see it go in.

"There were some nerves and some butterflies, but after the first couple of shifts, I kind of settled down and it was just another hockey game. We really wanted to get a win tonight and the way that we were able to bounce back was a pretty good feeling. I feel good about the team and where it is going this year."

Trailing by two goals in the second period, Frolik started the comeback by beating Dubnyk to the short-side at 16:18.

"It was a really up and down game, but we battled hard, especially in the end," Frolik said. "It was a good finish for us and we can be happy with the way we turned the game around. I don't think that we can afford to give up that many goals. The defense could be a little tighter, but a win is a win, though."

The last time the Jets traveled to face the Oilers was March 29, 1996, a few months before the franchise relocated to Phoenix. Perhaps commemorating the anniversary, the game resembled an old-fashion Smythe Division battle, where the teams traded scoring chances and defense was all but an afterthought.

Gazdic, claimed off waivers by the Oilers on Sunday from the Dallas Stars, scored the opening goal 2:21 into the game, bouncing a centering feed off a Jets defenseman and past goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.

The Jets tied the game on their first shot when Scheifele beat Dubnyk from a sharp angle at 3:25 of the opening period.

Little gave the Jets the lead with the 100th goal of his career, waiting out defenseman Nick Schultz in the slot and beating Dubnyk at 16:12 of the first. Dubnyk had a tough night, giving up five goals on 28 shots.

"I just have to be better; I have to give these guys a better opportunity to win the game," Dubnyk said. "I didn't play well enough. Any night that we score four goals, I have to be able to at least get us a point."

Before the end of the period, Gordon scored his first goal for the Oilers, getting a stick on a point shot from Justin Schultz and tipping it past Pavelec at 18:08.

In the second, Hemsky, who the Oilers were trying to trade this summer, gave his team the lead at 3:38, walking around Little in the slot and finding the top corner against Pavelec.

Joensuu, who the Oilers signed as a free agent from the New York Islanders, extended the Oilers' lead at 7:53, batting in a rebound past a sprawled Pavelec on the power play.

"It's tough to lose," Joensuu said. "I'm happy that I played, but it's tough to lose. It's really frustrating.

"The coaches will tell us what we did wrong, but it (stinks), because we had the game. If we would have played smart and tough, they would have not had a chance to come back. It's frustrating. If you're losing a game and you're playing as good as you can, then you have to accept it. But it doesn't feel good."

In the third period, Mark Arcobello had the Oilers' best chance to tie the game after his club gave up the lead, but was stopped by Pavelec from in tight. Pavelec finished with 34 saves for the win.

"We cannot hand teams goals in games like that," Eakins said. "There was a little bit of everything, we had a couple of turnovers, we let in a couple of questionable goals, we had a guy jump high on a face-off.

"That can't happen. It shows that you're not full engaged. I don't care if it's the first second, the middle second or the last second … every moment in that game counts for something, and that was a true testament of that tonight."

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