EditorsNote: Restores notes
Jets’ win costly over Oilers with Scheifele’s injury
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — It’s nearly 2018 but the 1980’s broke out Wednesday night at Bell MTS Place as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 in a track meet where you almost expected Wayne Gretzky and Dale Hawerchuk to jump over the boards.
The Jets (21-11-6) could have used the Jets 1.0 superstar as they lost their current No. 1 center Mark Scheifele with a serious injury to his right shoulder or arm after being taken into the end boards awkwardly — but legally — by Oilers (17-18-2) defenseman Brandon Davidson. He had recorded his 23rd assist and 38th point just a few minutes earlier to start the second period. He writhed around on the ice for about 30 seconds after the hit, got up under his own power and went straight to the dressing room. He did not return.
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 22 shots in picking up his 13th win of the season — he has lost just one game at home in regulation all year — while Cam Talbot blocked 35 shots directed his way at the other end of the ice.
Joel Armia, the Jets “other” Finnish player, led the way with a pair of goals, including the winner and had several glorious chances to record his first-ever NHL hat trick, while Bryan Little and Kyle Connor added singles. The Oilers replied with singles by Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi and Jujhar Khaira.
No lead was safe in a game full of odd-man rushes — including a rare 2-on-0 short-handed break by the Oilers that led to Connor McDavid setting up Draisaitl to open the scoring early in the first period — and both teams were content to swap scoring chances.
The Oilers had a boatload of them in the game’s final minute with Talbot on the bench and down by a goal but they either fanned on them or rang them off a defender’s body. The Jets flopped in front of so many shots as the final seconds ticked away that it looked like they were wearing banana peels on their feet instead of skates.
Hellebuyck said he appreciated his teammates throwing themselves on every hand grenade that came his way.
“That’s why I love the game. It’s exciting. Our guys played so well in front of me. They were blocking everything,” he said. “I know I’m not going to be able to see a whole lot but I know the guys in front of me are going to be working. I’ve just got to work to see the ones that are my job and when it does hit me, I’ve got to hold it.”
“You get a feel for what they want to do. They had a lot of lefties out there. I didn’t really see a righty. You know there’s going to be a guy open. You’ve just got to identify him. You’ll know when he gets the puck he’ll be open because nobody will be rushing out to him. That’s your guy.”
As happy as the Jets should have been to pull into second place in the Central Division — they’re tied with St. Louis with 48 points but have one game in hand and sit just one point back of Nashville — the dressing room was somber as they contemplated life without Scheifele.
Coach Paul Maurice said team doctors will make a final assessment on his condition tomorrow.
“Initially I would say it doesn’t look very good,” he said. “You’re hoping he pops back up. You’re just hoping it’s the wind knocked out of them. He doesn’t go down easily and he certainly doesn’t lay on the ice ever. So you know if he’s down, it’s significant.”
Captain Blake Wheeler, who recorded his 288th assist in a Jets/Atlanta Thrashers jersey on Connor’s goal to take over the franchise lead from Ilya Kovalchuk — in 511 games, 81 fewer than the Russian sniper — was uncharacteristically melancholy during his post-game scrum.
“That’s my running mate, man. That’s part of my livelihood, a big part of what do as a team. (He’s) irreplaceable. Just fingers crossed.”
Little, who set the Jets franchise record on this night with his 710th game played, was even more succinct.
“It sucks,” he said.
“To see him on the ice, with how quiet the building was, it was tough to watch. He’s been a huge part of our team. He’s one of those guys that you can’t replace in the lineup. It’s a huge loss and I hope he recovers fast.”
Nobody on the Jets went after Davidson because that kind of play happens countless times in a game.
“The boards are so heavy and so hard that when you go into them like that and you can’t protect yourself or slow down, something’s got to give,” said Oilers coach Todd McLellan. “Hopefully, he’s not seriously hurt. We want to have our star players, or all players, in the games,” he said.
Oilers center Mark Letestu said it was unfortunate to see Scheifele go down.
“There’s no intent there by (Davidson). You can tell. (Scheifele) just kind of went in awkwardly,” he said.
“He’s good for our league, but if he misses the next couple (games), and the next time they’re through Edmonton, that wouldn’t hurt my feelings.”
The Jets visit the Oilers on New Year’s Eve.
NOTES: Jets RW Patrik Laine and Oilers RW Jesse Puljujarvi were linemates at the World Juniors two years ago when Team Finland won the gold medal on home ice. ... The Oilers lead the NHL with 980 hits. ... G Cam Talbot set a personal-best with his sixth straight last week over Montreal, giving him 77 wins as an Oiler and moving him past Curtis Joseph. ... The Oilers rank fourth overall with 34.6 shots on goal per game and are fifth in the NHL with 30.2 shots allowed per game. ... Jets C Bryan Little played his 710th game for the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers franchise, passing RW Chris Thorburn who moved to St. Louis after last season. ... The Jets have played just 17 games at home this season, tied for second-fewest in the league.