EditorsNote: Corrects to Laine second behind Crosby in goals
Oilers’ power play too much for Jets
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- The 1980s broke out at the MTS Centre on Thursday night and just like they did during their glory days, the Edmonton Oilers broke the hearts of the Winnipeg Jets, this time with a convincing 6-3 victory.
NHL scoring leader Connor McDavid led the way with the new generation of fire-wagon hockey, quarterbacking the Oilers’ dangerous power play, notching three assists to extend his point-scoring streak to seven games and generally causing havoc whenever he jumped over the boards.
The Oilers got a pair of goals from centers Leon Draisaitl and center Mark Letestu and one apiece from left wingers Patrick Maroon and Benoit Pouliot. Edmonton goaltender Cam Talbot turned away 22 shots to snap his team’s three-game losing streak.
The Jets countered with a pair of goals from Finnish rookie sniper Patrik Laine -- his 14th and 15th of the season -- and one from Bryan Little, who was playing in his second game of the year after missing all but four shifts of the season with an injury.
The Oilers came into the game with the league’s seventh-best road power play at 21.6 percent. After scoring a trio of goals on the man advantage before the end of the second period, that percentage jumped up to 26.8.
McDavid laughed when it was suggested he and his teammates were doing their best Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri impersonations after they outshot the Jets 33-25.
“It was a pretty free-flowing game. Both teams opened it up at the beginning but we did a good job of getting the lead and then shutting things down,” he said.
McDavid said he and Draisaitl -- they combined for a total of six points -- were on the same page all night long.
”He’s one of my favorite guys to play with for sure,‘’ said McDavid, who has 34 points. “He’s so patient with the puck. He’s always finding you in different ways and putting the puck on your stick in a good situation. Leon thinks the game so well. We think the game a little bit alike and when you get that, good things happen.”
No kidding. Oilers coach Todd McLellan also praised the pair for having multiple ways of hurting their opponents.
”The defensive players have to decide if they’re going to be attacked with speed or are they going to be attacked with a little bit of finesse,‘’ McLellan said. “I know that (McDavid and Draisaitl) like to play with each other. We’d like them to continue there but that only happens when the rest of the group is pulling their weight through the middle and the wingers are playing well like they did tonight.”
The Jets got off on the right foot when Little scored his first of the season 35 seconds into the game. But then they got into some penalty trouble and the Oilers stars began to shine.
Letestu evened the score at 2:14 before Laine gave the Jets their second lead at 10:14. But just as they have done for most of the season, the Jets sagged in the middle frame, and were outscored 3-0. Draisaitl scored in the first minute and the Oilers notched two more before the 12-minute mark.
Laine, who snapped a six-game goal-scoring drought Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils, is second only to Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (16) for the league lead in goals. He has 21 points -- tops among rookies and two more than Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner. Toronto center Auston Matthews, who was the No. 1 selection in last June’s entry draft -- one spot ahead of Laine -- has 10 goals, second among all first-year players and 18 points.
He said the Jets didn’t help their cause by taking some “not-so-smart” penalties.
“They had a good power play. They scored three goals. We knew that they were going to have a good power play so that’s the way we wanted to play -- but that kind of stuff happens and we have to deal with that,” he said.
Laine was also quick to credit his teammates for feeding him the puck during the Jets man advantage.
”I got two power play goals so there was enough space,‘’ Laine said. “But I think there was a little bit of room on my side but our four players did a good job getting me the puck and create scoring chances, so that was good.”
When Gretzky was the world’s best player in the 1980s, the Oilers regularly had their way with the original incarnation of the Jets -- despite also being one of the NHL’s best teams at the time -- and won all six playoff series against them by a game count of 22-4.
NOTES: Jets scratches were D Mark Stuart, LW Kyle Connor and C Alexander Burmistrov. ... The Oilers scratched D Mark Fayne, C Matt Hendricks and R Jesse Puljujarvi. ... This was Edmonton’s second visit to Winnipeg this season but the first indoors. The Oilers beat the Jets 3-0 in the outdoor Heritage Classic game in October. ... Winnipeg was 1 for 21 on the power play in its previous seven games before going 2 for 4 on Thursday. ... Edmonton C Connor McDavid leads the league in scoring with 34 points. ... A year ago, Jets RW Patrik Laine and Oilers RW Jesse Puljujarvi were linemates preparing to lead Team Finland to gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Their young careers have gone in different directions since arriving in the NHL. Laine leads rookies in scoring while Puljujarvi was a healthy scratch on four occasions.