Hellebuyck props up Jets in 2-1 win over Oilers

EDMONTON — Credit Connor Hellebuyck for being able to stifle the offensive output of the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

Hellebuyck made 31 saves as the Winnipeg Jets pushed past the Oilers 2-1 despite only mustering 17 shots of their own.

“When you’re clearly half a step behind a lot of the night, your goalie gives you that confidence that ‘OK, we’ll get going eventually,’” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “We started to skate better at times and then when there was a breakdown, he was there for us. The guys have a tremendous amount of confidence in him.

“Good teams find a way and we found a way tonight.”

Neal Pionk and Kyle Connor each had a goal and an assist for the Jets (23-13-1) who have won two in a row.

“It seems like when we need him the most it seems like he’s there,” Connor said of Hellebuyck. “Clutch times, he’s a clutch player. He’s by far one of the best players in the league, he’s a leader in that locker room too, and he had some good stuff tonight.

“It was a good win. Any way we can get them, good teams find a way to win, that’s the bottom line. It may not have been our A game tonight, but the penalty kill was huge going up against one of the best power plays in the league. Just a lot of unselfish guys back there getting in front of lanes and blocking a lot of shots.”

The Jets didn’t allow the Oilers' potent power play to score on any of their five opportunities.

Klim Kostin replied for the Oilers (20-16-2) who had a two-game winning streak halted and have lost four straight at home.

Oilers defenceman Tyson Barrie felt his team might have deserved a better fate.

“I think we played a pretty solid team game tonight,” he said. “We didn’t give up a ton of chances and we created some looks and had some chances to get one, two, three, four goals, but we just didn’t get it done. Some nights you play well and don’t get the result you are looking for. It is frustrating, but it is part of the game.”

Edmonton controlled most of the early action, but it was Winnipeg that struck first with a power-play goal with 4:16 remaining in the opening period as Connor made a nifty backhand pass to Pionk and he snapped in his sixth before Oilers starter Jack Campbell could get across the crease.

The Oilers continued to press to no avail in the second period as Hellebuyck stood tall.

Oilers captain Connor McDavid came closest to getting his team on the scoreboard when he rang a shot off the post midway through the middle frame and also set up Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a glorious opportunity late in the period that Hellebuyck was able to get across to stop. Edmonton outshot Winnipeg 20-10 through 40 minutes.

The Oilers evened the game 4:29 into the third period off a faceoff as Kostin was able to beat Hellebuyck up high for his third goal in the last two games and fifth of the season.

Winnipeg regained the lead 2 1/2 minutes later, however, as Connor was able to tip a long shot by Pionk past Campbell for his 16th of the season.

Edmonton had a late power play and battled hard to tie the game with a furious finish, but couldn’t get another puck past Hellebuyck. It also appeared that Kostin may have suffered a serious leg injury in the dying seconds.

In addition, McDavid’s point scoring streak was halted at 17 games, recording an impressive 37 points (16G, 21A) during the run.


Winnipeg has a battered and bruised club with seven players on the shelf for Saturday’s contest — Nikolaj Ehlers (sports hernia), Mason Appleton (wrist), Saku Maenalanen (upper body), Logan Stanley (upper body), Nate Schmidt (upper body), Blake Wheeler (groin) and Cole Perfetti (upper body). Star defenceman Josh Morrissey left their last game against Vancouver on Thursday in the third period with a lower-body injury, but was able to return against the Oilers. … Forward Kristian Reichel made his season debut with the Jets. … The Oilers were without Evander Kane (wrist), Ryan Murray (back) and Leon Draisaitl (undisclosed). It was only the eighth game Draisaitl has missed since 2016. … The Edmonton fans applauded Jets forward Sam Gagner for reaching the 1,000 NHL regular-season games played plateau in their last game. Gagner played 542 of those games for the Oilers.


Both teams return to action with games on Tuesday.

The Oilers play the second game of a four-game homestand when they host the Seattle Kraken. The Jets launch a three-game homestand against the Calgary Flames.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 31, 2022.

Shane Jones, The Canadian Press