WINNIPEG, MB - Mark Letestu has played more than 400 NHL games in his career. He has 70 career goals in the regular season, and one in the playoffs.
"Playoff goal there (in Columbus)," Letestu said of his proudest hockey goal. "I've scored a couple overtime goals down the stretch for a playoff drive. But this one's pretty cool. It's a memorable thing I'll be able to tell my kids."
There are a few hockey moments the Elk Point, AB native is most proud of, and he adds Sunday night to the list of twine-finding, red-light-flashing achievements.
Letestu and the Oilers chased the Jets out of Investors Group Field with a 3-0 victory over the 2016 Heritage Classic hosts. "This one" refers to his shorthanded breakaway goal - the eventual game-winner - coming at 9:24 of the second period.
"It's different," said Letestu. "We're under the sky and jets are flying overhead. There's a lot of people here. The memorable magnitude of the goal, it's big. But right now, it doesn't feel as large as some of the other goals I've scored. But it's nice to be a part of some history, scoring an outdoor goal."
Video: EDM@WPG: Letestu beats Hellebuyck shorthanded
Letestu slipped the puck past Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, then raced down the ice with all the open space in the world, going glove side for his second goal of the season. His other goal also came shorthanded and was also the game-winning tally.
"The puck was just dancing. It was like Bugs Bunny," he said. "I took a couple swings at it and it just kept going for me. When you get a breakaway from the far blue in, you have a lot of time to make up your mind and put the shot on you want."
The Jets had a strong start to the game and were looking to capitalize on their PP for the game's first goal. Letestu had other plans.
Letestu slipped the puck past Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, then raced down the ice with all the open space in the world, then went glove side for his second goal of the season. His other goal this season also came shorthanded and was also the game-winning tally.
"To me, all the shorties are important," he said. "This one kind of got us going. Different ways of getting to it (this goal and the goal earlier this season against Calgary). Obviously, both breakaways but that one I really had to skate to work for. This one was just a lucky bounce that fell my way."
Letestu, like most Canadian youths, first experienced hockey in the outdoors. The Heritage Classic not only pays homage to the past history of the League and the Canadian teams, but also where hockey began - on a frozen sheet in the great outdoors.
"I think every Canadian kid had at least a little chance to play outdoors," said Letestu. "I learned in my backyard with a flooded garden and shooting against a piece of plywood. That's how I learned the game. At home, we have the big outdoor rink near the Windsor Salt plant in Lindbergh, Alberta. We play out there under the lights for all hours of the night."
Shorthanded goals come to those who are prepared to capitalize on their opportunities. What makes this one special to those observing is the atmosphere in which the goal was scored. Letestu buried this one in front of 33,000-plus fans on a national stage.
"On this stage, I know a lot of people were watching this," Letestu said. "This game's broadcast coast-to-coast. I'm sure my phone is going to be full of text messages."
The stage for the game was huge - no doubt about that. But it's the smaller, more familiar audience Letestu said were watching that counts the most. His friends, his parents, his family were witness to the big moment, watching from home.
After the win, Letestu picked up the game puck. No one would blame the 31-year-old forward for keeping the memento for himself. But, in unselfish fashion, he gave it to a teammate who he thought deserved it. Cam Talbot, who picked up his third-straight victory - a 31-save shutout - in a week when his wife gave birth to twins, had Letestu slip the puck in his glove.
Letestu wasn't the only one to have a memorable night, and he was certainly ready to share with his teammates.