PENTICTON, B.C. - The Oilers rookies had the power of three on their side as they made a clean 3-0 sweep of the 2016 Young Stars Classic in their final game of the tournament with a 4-1 victory over the Jets.
With three consecutive Young Stars championships, the Oilers managed to work their way out of what appeared to be a slump at the start of the game, putting on an impressive display in the end.
It wasn't a promising start for the Edmonton team, as Winnipeg flew into the period, applying full pressure in the first five minutes of the game, keeping the Oilers contained to their defensive end.
"We didn't come out too strong, but we figured it out and we battled our way back and it was a great effort by everybody," said Oilers forward Patrick Russell, who scored the winning goal in today's game.
With very few opportunities on net, Jets forward Kyle Connor was first to get on the board, capitalizing on a chance in the Oilers defensive end after his teammate Jack Roslovic fed him the puck. Rocketing a shot above Oilers goaltender Keven Bouchard's glove, Winnipeg took a 1-0 lead.
"Hats-off to the coaching staff, because they've been through [this tournament] before, they implemented the systems that got us through the game and they knew what to expect from each team, so hats off to them, all the players - the goaltending was strong for all three games," said Oilers forward Joey Benik. "All three goalies were great so it was a good all-around effort."
Try as they might, it looked as though Edmonton could not produce the equalizer until three minutes remained in the opening frame. Oilers forward Kyle Platzer found teammate Jaedon Descheneau's tape, who tied it up with a close-range shot, beating Jets goaltender Mikhail Berdin.
The second period didn't see much action as the Oilers and Jets traded spots in the penalty box. Though opportunities came for both sides, it wasn't until three minutes remained - again - when the momentum suddenly shifted and a game of tic-tac-toe played out between Oilers linemates Jesse Puljujarvi, Joey Benik and Caggiula.
Video: OILERS TODAY | Oilers vs. Jets Postgame
Connecting in the Jets defensive end, Puljujarvi crossed the puck in front of Berdin's crease to find Benik's tape, who in turn quickly dumped it to Russell - positioned at Berdin's post - who turned and tapped it into the net for Edmonton to take a 2-1 lead.
"They're both tremendous players in their own rights," said Caggiula on playing with his linemates. "They bring different elements to the game, but they're special players, they're here for a reason and Jesse has his big body, a hell of a shot and he can put the puck in anywhere, but he also makes plays all over the ice.
"Benik's the same kind of player, he can score from anywhere on the ice - give him a chance to score and he's going to bury it. He also plays heads up, and he makes a lot of great passes out there as well, so it's a lot of fun playing with him, it's very easy to play with him and hopefully I can continue to play with him."
The first line didn't stop there.
Less than 20 seconds into the third period, Puljujarvi quickly advanced up the left side, into the Jets defensive end, finding Benik's tape on the right, who immediately sent the puck back into the middle, in front of the crease, as Caggiula followed up to finish the play, giving the Oilers a two-goal lead.
Moments later, the line continued for an encore as Puljujarvi sent the puck up to Caggiula - position on the goal line - who spotted Benik advance into the Jets defensive end in front of the crease, found his tape and one timed it into the net with 13:40 remaining, contributing the final 4-1 victory.
Puljujarvi finished the game with three points (3A) and six points overall in the tournament (2G, 4A). Benik wrapped up the game with three points (1G, 2A) and seven points (4G, 3A) overall, while Caggiula acquired two points (1G, 1A) against the Jets and three points (1G, 2A) overall in the tournament.
"This was really special for me because [over] the last four years I had the opportunity to play against Drake," said Benik. "He's a smart hockey player, he's fast, you resent playing against him because he makes a lot of plays out there. Jesse, he's big, he can control the puck, he's strong in the defensive zone, when you get into the offensive zone he can hang on to it, nobody can take the puck from him so it's been a good opportunity for me to play with both those guys for two out of three games this weekend."
Tensions continued to rise throughout the remainder of the game. With 10 seconds remaining, Jets forwards Brendan Lemieux received five minutes for fighting while Logan Stanley received 10 minutes for misconduct.
Bouchard, who made 37 saves, kept the play alive as the Jets pushed harder and harder throughout the course of play, backstopping the oilers to a 4-1 victory and third Young Stars championship.