Taylor Hall scored twice, both assisted by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as the Oilers hand Winnipeg a 3-1 pre-season loss at Rexall Place.
With Oilers centre Bogdan Yakimov and Jets forward Michael Frolik recording minor penalties just seven seconds apart, the 4-on-4 hockey tilted the ice in the home team’s favour. The Oilers grabbed the 1-0 lead at 2:44 of the first, when Vladimir Tkachev fed Mark Fayne from the boards, and the defenceman’s snap shot found top-shelf twine behind Michael Hutchinson. Nikita Nikitin earned the second assist.
The Oilers chose to reward 2010 second-round pick Tyler Pitlick with an opportunity to showcase himself on the top line with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Pitlick, in a battle for a roster spot with the team, nearly scored a power play goal in the first period.
Defenceman Brad Hunt’s shot from the point rebounded off the pads of Hutchinson. Pitlick was there in front to scoop and score. However, the goal was waved off due to incidental contact by the Oilers.
It’s a goal Pitlick would probably like to have back.
“It would have been nice to get that one, but we ran into the goalie there and they disallowed it. There’s not much to say about that,” he said.
Pitlick played well enough to earn some praise from Head Coach Dallas Eakins.
“I thought he played good,” Eakins said. “We talked about it this morning that it was a bit of a reward for him. He was a factor in our last game (against Winnipeg) and he did his job tonight. He went up and down the wing, supported those guys, we got him a little power play time too to see how he could handle it. We thought he had a good game.”
The Oilers took a 2-0 lead on the power play at 2:04 of the second period, with Adam Lowry in the box for holding. Nugent-Hopkins flipped a perfect cross-ice pass to Hall, who capitalized. The redirected puck snuck its way past Hutchinson’s blocker.
“It was a great pass,” Hall said. “That’s a new look on the power play for us. It was created by Pitlick getting open and attracting guys to him. It worked out tonight and I would have liked to get a few more chances on the power play to work on it. That will come as the pre-season wears on.”
Eakins said after the game that he got a visit from General Manager Craig MacTavish. The GM asked Eakins who he liked in the game and the coach simply replied, “I liked my best players.”
Hall and Nugent-Hopkins stole the show.
“You don’t always get that in training camp and especially not yet,” Eakins said. “It’s usually those last couple of games or that last game where some of them decide to turn it up a notch, and that’s right throughout the league. Right from day one of camp here, especially those two young men have showed great leadership, great work ethic, they’ve been driving practice and now they’re driving the game. I thought they were both excellent, both excellent on the bench. You can’t ask anymore out of your top guys.”
The Jets bounced back at 6:34 of the same frame. Mathieu Perreault scored, assisted by Lowry and Keaton Ellerby, to draw Winnipeg within one.
The one-goal deficit didn’t last long, as the oilers took back the two-goal lead a few minutes later. Hall showed off some fancy stick-work on his second goal of the night, this one at 9:12 of the second. Hall was assisted by Nugent-Hopkins.
That goal signalled the end of the night for Hutchinson, who was replaced in net by Danny Taylor.
In the third, Oilers Steve Pinizzotto scrapped with Anthony Peluso. Pinizzotto had gotten in a fight earlier in the game with Patrice Cormier. Pinizzotto is one of the other players in a battle with Pitlick for a roster spot.
The Oilers may have won by more had they been able to convert on the power play. The lone power play tally of the game for the Oilers was Hall’s first goal, as they finished the night 1 for 8 on the man advantage.
Viktor Fasth was solid in net for the Oilers, making 27 saves in the win.
“I thought we played awesome,” Hunt said. “We did the things that we talked about before the game and everyone bought into the system and that’s how you win games, when everyone buys in. Everyone did a great job from the younger guys to the older guys.”