Leon Draisaitl scores twice in a losing effort as the Oilers ended 2018 in defeat on New Year's Eve with a 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jetd
EDMONTON, AB - Leon Draisaitl scored twice, with Connor McDavid factoring in on both goals with two assists, in a losing effort as the Oilers ended 2018 in defeat on New Year's Eve with a 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
The Oilers begin a four-game road trip on Wednesday against the Arizona Coyotes. The game can be seen on Sportsnet and heard on the Oilers Radio Network, including 630 CHED. Puck drop is 7:38 p.m. MST.
"I thought tonight was a good effort," Oilers defenceman Adam Larsson said. "The attention to detail was there and we did a lot of good things tonight, but we still let in four goals and it's tough to win in this league if you do that. They're an experienced team over there, and I think that was the story."
After Nugent-Hopkins opened the scoring 15 minutes into the opening frame, the Jets tallied twice in 85 seconds as part of a three-goal second period. Draisaitl levelled the score with less than 10 minutes remaining, but Brendan Lemieux's deflection with 5:58 on the clock for his second of the night proved to be the decisive marker.
"Some unlucky bounces kind of cost us the game, and we just have to get back on the winning track right now," Larsson added. "It's a new year, it's a fresh start, and we have to look at it that way."
Joe Gambardella played 5:57 in his NHL debut, while rookie defenceman Caleb Jones recorded a career high of 23:56.
"We need the bottom end of our team to start playing better if we expect to get to the next level," Oilers head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "For us to get ot the next level and be competitive, that's depth. The depth is in our lineup, but we got to get it to play better."
Newly-acquired defencemen Alex Petrovic and Brandon Manning were active in their debuts, with Petrovic logging 20:21 in ice time and an assist on Nugent-Hopkins' opening marker during in front of his hometown crowd.
"We were right with them the whole way and it there could've been a couple bounces, but Hellebuyck made a good save at the end there," Petrovic said. "Being an Oiler is an unbelievable feeling, but obviously tonight it wasn't the best result. It's good to get the nerves out, but I'm really excited to be here."
In a period that needed fifteen minutes for the first decisive action of the game, it was the Oilers who were the quickest to strike.
After Petrovic helped work the puck loose on the sideboards, McDavid broke past Jacob Trouba before firing a low pass across goal to Nugent-Hopkins, whose ensuing shot squeaked through the five-hole of Connor Hellebuyck and over the line.
Manning established himself as an Oiler in the first period after last playing on December 12 with the Chicago Blackhawks, laying out Lemieux with a hard hit below the goal line.
"It was a long day but it probably took me a period to feel better, then in the third I could feel it catch up to me a little bit," Manning said after arriving in Edmonton this afternoon. "[The hit] was an easy way for me to get my legs under me and get started."
Tensions mounted as the physicality ramped up at the onset of the second period. Dmitry Kulikov flattened Puljujarvi at the red line on the dump in, taking payback for Manning's earlier hit on Lemieux.
Brandon Tanev evened the score via deflection 4:39 into the second before Lemieux put the Jets ahead 85 seconds later, getting the final touch on a mishandled puck by Draisaitl in the crease.
The German would make up for his earlier error on the Oilers first power play when Nurse teed up the German from the left circle for his 20th goal of the season with two minutes left in the middle. But the Jets were quick to answer again when Blake Wheeler scored unassisted 29 seconds later.
The Oilers would trail 3-2 on the scoreboard and 26-16 in shots heading into the final 20 minutes.
A failed clearance by the Jets at the blue line led to the Oilers equalizing the score with 12:37 left in the third as Draisaitl tucked home his second of the night uncontested from the slot under Hellebuyck's arm.
With six minutes remaining, Lemieux's deflection off the point shot by Joe Morrow put the Jets ahead.
Looking for the hat-trick, Draisaitl was left looking to the rafters after Hellebuyck denied the Oilers the equalizer with 23.3 seconds remaining. Nugent-Hopkins' saucer pass found Draisaitl alone at the back post, but the goaltender tracked the pass and flashed the leather to keep it out.
The Oilers drop their sixth-straight game and look to get back in the win column when they begin a four-game road trip in Arizona against the Coyotes on Tuesday.
"We need to take it as a positive when we're on a slide like this," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Tonight we definitely should be able to, it's just a matter of doing that now and having a good road trip."