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Nikolaj Ehlers made a terrible decision and then didn’t do enough to mitigate the damage — and he knows that better than anyone.
In overtime Tuesday night, when puck possession means everything, the Winnipeg Jets forward threw a long pass on a prayer towards centre Mark Scheifele, which went astray and wound up on the stick of Edmonton Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse.
Nurse first looked to make a pass, but called an audible and carried it himself, generating speed down the left side, waltzing easily around Ehlers’ fly-by check before wiring a wrist shot that beat goalie Connor Hellebuyck low to the stick side.
Ehlers, mired in a drawn-out scoring slump and in need of a confidence boost, condemned himself Wednesday for the blatant miscues.
“It was a horrible play. (Blake Wheeler) makes a great change at the one-minute mark, I get on and I get the puck. Edmonton’s got three guys in the neutral zone. I see Scheif in the neutral zone who’s been on for 1:30, I got (Josh Morrissey) next to me who’s been on for 1:30, and I’m trying to make a stupid pass instead of waiting to get them to change and get new guys in,” he said.
“So, a stupid pass… my fault.”
Last season, Jets head coach Paul Maurice seemed reluctant to include Ehlers in his OT forward rotation, much to the frustration of some fans who pointed to the young Jets winger’s speed, shiftiness and bullet shot — all useful traits for three-on-three hockey.
But smart, responsible decisions are paramount when key extra points are the line.
“You learn. I know what I needed to do there, but I didn’t do it, so I think I was looking for that pass a little too much,” acknowledged Ehlers, who has yet to score this season. His slump dates back to April 3 in Montreal, a span of 23 games (including 15 straight in the playoffs).
Last season, the Jets suffered eight OT losses and two more in shootouts, while earning the full two points in four extra sessions and four shootouts.
Meanwhile, Jets forward Andrew Copp took responsibility for a needless roughing minor penalty in the third period — wrestling Drake Caggiula to the ice near the Jets bench. Connor McDavid scored on the power play to ignite the Oilers’ comeback bid.
“That was not my smartest moment, for sure. Gotta be disciplined, especially after they scored that goal early in the third.
“Momentum can shift pretty quickly. That was an undisciplined play, for sure, but something I’ll clean up,” Copp said.
It was his first visit to the penalty box this season.
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Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is still a question mark for tonight’s matchup with the Vancouver Canucks.
Byfuglien, injured (upper body) in practice Saturday after a tumble into the boards, has missed the first two games of the club’s six-game stretch at home.
He skated with his teammates Wednesday morning, wearing a yellow ‘no-contact’ jersey, and participated in some drills while testing out his pain threshold by blasting a number of shots from the point.
“Probably possible would be an accurate word,” Maurice said. “We think there’s a chance he plays, but we’re going to run him through some tests (in the morning) and see how he feels before we make that decision.”
Byfuglien has a lone assist this season.
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).