Leon Draisaitl scored his first of the season and Cam Talbot made 38 saves in the loss
EDMONTON, AB - The Winnipeg Jets earned their first win of the 2017-18 season in a Thanksgiving meeting with the Oilers at Rogers Place on Monday.
Nikolaj Ehlers and Connor Hellebuyck propelled the visiting team to victory by a score of 5-2, as Ehlers registered a four-point night with a natural hat trick and assist while the Jets' keeper backstopped his club with 37 saves.
Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were Edmonton's goal scorers. Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse and Patrick Maroon each nabbed a helper while Cam Talbot made 38 saves in the losing effort.
"The big concern is where we are with our mental state and it was a concern of ours heading into the season," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "We're not near competitive enough, we're not out-working teams - if feels like it in moments of the game where you kind of get rolling around - but consistently from minute one through 60 in the last two nights, we haven't come close to out-working a team."
The Oilers peppered Hellebuyck and the Jets with 21 shots in the opening frame but finished the first period down by two at the buzzer. Only 22 seconds into the game, Josh Morrissey was called for slashing McDavid to send Edmonton on the man-advantage for the first time in the night.
The Orange & Blue threw seven shots at the Jets' netminder, who got lucky when the crossbar bailed him out after Milan Lucic - who ended the period with five shots on goal alone - released a one-timer from the left side.
"We had our opportunities, especially on that first power play," said Lucic, "and a lot of opportunities in the first period but after that, I think the shots were 22-17 (for Winnipeg)."
Edmonton kept Winnipeg's offence limited in the first but the Jets capitalized on their chances. At 8:56 of the period and on the Jets' fourth shot of the game, Mark Scheifele scored his third of the season to put the visitors up by one. The centre redirected a Dmitry Kulikov point shot just before it reached the Oilers crease, then batted the puck out of mid-air past Talbot as it fluttered in front of the goal.
"They got a couple pretty quick and I don't know if it deflated us but maybe we didn't do things quite the way we needed to," said Nugent-Hopkins, who scored his second goal of the season in the second frame. "It just comes down to playing the right way and being hard on all aspects of the puck."
Ryan Strome almost got Edmonton their first not long after. The forward was hovering around the Jets' net when the puck found him at the right side post. Strome got three whacks at it but Hellebuyck - in a spread-eagle position - planted his left pad on the ice to make each save.
Kulikov already had an assist from Scheifele's goal but added his second point of the period when he scored to make it 2-0 Winnipeg. The rearguard walked in from the blueline uncontested and lifted a wrister over Talbot's blocker at 16:27. Ehlers and Blake Wheelers registered the assists.
Edmonton continued carrying the play at the beginning of the second period, coming close to scoring on several occasions: Eric Gryba dinged the crossbar; McDavid and Maroon's 2-on-1 attempt was parried by a Jets back checker; Adam Larsson's wrister from the slot was swallowed by Hellebuyck and Tyler Myers sprawled out to disrupt an Oilers 3-on-2 featuring McDavid.
But the club would break Hellebuyck with two quick middle frame strikes.
Draisaitl scored his first of the season at 12:53 of the second after linemates Maroon and McDavid applied pressure behind the Jets' net. As Draisaitl maneuvered into the slot, McDavid fed him a pass and the Deutschland Dangler placed a perfect shot past Hellebuyck as it went above his right pad but beneath his blocker.
Nugent-Hopkins scored 40 seconds later to tie the game up. The centre split through Myers and Patrik Laine chasing the puck within the Jets' zone, then flipping it over Hellebuyck's blocker while the netminder poke-checked. Nugent-Hopkins subsequently sent Oil Country into a frenzy.
"The D-man opened up a little bit so I thought if I could get some separation in the middle, I'd have a chance," said Nugent-Hopkins of the play that lead to his goal.
But the celebration didn't last long.
Two consecutive Ehlers markers rekindled Winnipeg's two-goal lead. On his first, Ehlers encroached the Oilers zone then ripped a wrist shot over Talbot's blocker. The second goal came off a pretty setup from Wheeler to make it 4-2.
Talbot did all he could to keep the Oilers relevant in the third. He stopped a Laine wrist shot from the slot then followed it up by edging to his left to get a piece of Mathieu Perrault's rebound attempt but the Oilers failed to muster any offence.
Ehlers did eventually register the natural hat trick, scoring his third of the game with 1:14 left to ice it 5-2.
"Structurally, we're about as loose as we can be," said McLellan. "It starts with your star players. Your stars have to be superstars every night on both sides of the puck. One line did a really good job of it and they wore white (Scheifele, Ehlers and Wheeler) and one line on our team wore orange and we didn't get it quite done."
The Oilers will play the Ottawa Senators Saturday at Rogers Place. Puck drop is at 8 PM MDT.