The Winnipeg Jets have found several impressive ways to win early in this new NHL season. On Sunday night, they found an incredibly painful way to lose.
Leon Draisaitl scored with less than a second left in regulation to give the Edmonton Oilers a 4-3 victory at Bell MTS Place.
With the game seemingly headed for overtime, Connor McDavid found Draisaitl with a pass from behind the Winnipeg net. The reigning league MVP made no mistake, sliding the puck through the pads of Jets goalie Laurent Brossoit for the closest thing to a buzzer-beater you’ll see in hockey.
“It’s a brutal way to end the game, for sure,” said Jets coach Paul Maurice.
Winnipeg falls to 4-2-0 on the year, while Edmonton improves to 3-4-0. Considering every game this season is within the division, that’s a missed point, or perhaps two, that could ultimately come back to haunt the Jets in the ultra-competitive Canadian division.
Draisaitl’s goal, officially with 0.7 seconds remaining, capped a roller-coaster final 20 minutes which began with the visitors leading 2-1. The Jets stormed back to tie, and then take the lead with just under five minutes to play, only to surrender two late goals of their own.
“McDavid obviously had it, had full control. He passed out front, Copper (Andrew Copp) kind of slid, I didn’t really see where it was going from Copper’s slide. I didn’t think he could go five-hole, considering Copper was on the ground. I was just trying to track any puck up high, and it went, obviously, under me,” Brossoit said of the heartbreaker.
He was making his first-ever start against the Oilers, the only other NHL team he’s played for.
“It was a fast-paced game. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think. That’s what you come to expect when you play against the Oilers. Having played for them, I really wanted that win. But it didn’t happen. On to the next one,” said Brossoit, who finished with 34 saves.
Skating for a fifth time in seven nights and coming off a 6-3 comeback victory over Ottawa Saturday night, the Jets shrugged off any suggestion they might be dealing with heavy, tired legs with a dominating first period in which they earned a one-goal lead they felt should have been more.
After Adam Lowry opened the scoring at 10:41 with his third goal of the young season, Copp appeared to extend the lead later in the frame. But Edmonton challenged the call on the ice, claiming Copp impeded Mikko Koskinen’s ability to play the puck.
Officials eventually came to the same conclusion after a marathon video review, which showed Copp’s stick make slight contact with Koskinen’s glove as he tried to corral a puck that bounced of his mitt and into the net.
Winnipeg would argue Copp has every right to compete for the loose puck, citing several similar calls in the past that have gone against them.
“It’s a goal for me. I think the puck’s past his glove. They felt it was close, so there was no argument,” said Maurice.
It turned out to be a major turning point. Instead of a 2-0 advantage and an ensuing power play that would have resulted from the failed challenge, it was back to just a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes.
And the Oilers, who were slow out of the gate, had new life. They completely flipped the script in the middle frame, scoring twice and outshooting the Jets 19-6.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tied it just 21 seconds into the second period, cashing in on a loose puck that several Jets players, along with Brossoit, were unable to either clear or cover.
The Jets were hanging on for dear life after that, outshot 13-2 barely seven minutes into the frame and trapped in their own end for extended periods thanks to some dubious puck management.
And then the inevitable happened, with Edmonton’s Kyle Turris scoring his first with his new team off an odd-man rush at 14:18, beating Brossoit with a high shot to the glove side.
Winnipeg got a scare late in the period when leading scorer Kyle Connor took a puck off his throat. He went down in a heap, in obvious pain, and had to be helped off the ice. However, Connor returned to start what would turn out to be a wild third period.
Nikolaj Ehlers tied the game at 13:54, his fourth of the season off a great feed from linemate Paul Stastny. And then captain Blake Wheeler potted the go-ahead goal at 15:07, banking a pass attempt in past Koskinen from behind the net with his team on the power play.
it looked like the Jets, with three third-period comeback victories already this season, were about to do it again. And then it all fell apart.
“There’s no excuses. We were behind, we battled our way back, and didn’t end up getting the two points. I think the way that we played, we deserved at least a point. That sucks,” said Ehlers.
Kailer Yamamoto, off a beautiful passing play from McDavid and Draisaitl, tied it at 16:55. Jets defenceman Dylan DeMelo was called for high-sticking at 17:57, a two-minute minor the Jets survived — but only by two seconds, with Draisaitl’s dagger coming at 19:59.
“The real positive to the game was our third. Five in seven, afforded the opportunity to be playing close to midnight (Saturday) night and then come out and find that in the tank… I was really impressed with that. Really good push, a confident group going into the third. We put up 16 (shots), could have had a bunch more,” said Maurice.
This was the first of nine meetings between the former Smythe Division rivals this season. The next one is Tuesday night at Bell MTS Place.
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