Oilers' offence takes off, grounds Jets 6-3
EDMONTON — When you have teammates like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, it is pretty easy to be overshadowed, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continues to step into the spotlight in a career year.
Nugent-Hopkins had two goals and two assists as the Edmonton Oilers won their second game in a row, defeating the Winnipeg Jets 6-3 on Friday.
“I want to be involved every night that I can be in a positive way,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who has 77 points this season, well ahead of his previous best 69 in 2018-2019.
“Guys are finding me with great passes. I know that I need to step up a little bit offensively and help produce and still try to play that two-way game. I think it just goes to show the way that we are rolling as a team right now. The individual stuff kind of comes from the team playing well.”
Kailer Yamamoto and Draisaitl each had two goals and an assist and McDavid had three assists for the Oilers (34-21-8) who have won four of their last six.
“Our effort was great, the work rate was where it needed to be and the ability to draw as many penalties as we did is a credit to the way we were skating,” said Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft. “We built a big lead and found a way to get the win."
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Brenden Dillon and Mark Scheifele scored for the Jets (35-24-2), who have lost five in a row and seven of their last eight games.
“I've never coached a team, I don't think, that was so undisciplined and took so many penalties. You play a third of the game short-handed against that team, they're going to make you look bad and they made us look bad tonight,” said Jets coach Rick Bowness.
"We made them look a whole lot better than they are. They are a good team, there's no question about that. My point is we made it very easy for them to play their game."
Edmonton’s lethal power play got them off to a good start just 2:06 into the opening period when Nugent-Hopkins scrambled to get the puck across to Draisaitl, who beat Jets starter Connor Hellebuyck from a sharp angle to extend his points streak to 11 games. It was Draisaitl’s 24th power-play goal.
McDavid also picked up an assist to extend his points streak to nine games and give him points in 41 of his last 43.
The Oilers added to their lead 1:44 into the second period when Nugent-Hopkins intercepted a clearing attempt by Dylan DeMelo and sent a snap shot stick-side past Hellebuyck for his 29th of the season, a new career high for the 29-year-old.
Nugent-Hopkins continued to put his stamp on the game midway through the second as he made a fine defensive play before sending a long stretch pass to send Yamamoto in on a breakaway, beating the Jets goalie with a deke.
Just 40 seconds later Yamamoto scored his second of the game as a Brett Kulak shot was blocked in front but came out in front to the Spokane, Washington native, who scored his eighth and third in the last two games.
David Rittich came in to replace Hellebuyck in the Winnipeg net to start the third.
Edmonton made it 5-0 just 2:26 on a beautiful three-way passing play on the power play that ended up with Nugent-Hopkins recording his 30th.
The Jets finally got one past Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner four minutes later as Jonsson-Fjallby jumped up to pick up a rebound to record his fifth.
The Oilers quickly responded on a highlight-reel sequence as Draisaitl was able to put a dislodged Winnipeg net back on its moorings before getting the puck back and putting a shot through a seemingly impossibly small hole for his 38th of the season.
“I watched the replay and it was pretty cool,” Yamamoto said. “Not many players can make that shot."
Winnipeg had a late surge and got a power-play goal of its own as a giveaway allowed Scheifele to rifle home his 35th, and just over a minute later Brenden Dillon snuck in from the point and notched his second of the year to make it 6-3.
“Hopefully that’s what we said before the third period is to go out there and try and our best and try to build on that for (Saturday),” said Jonsson-Fjallby. “I thought the third period was a little better, but overall it wasn’t a good game.”
Since the two teams last met on New Year’s Eve and the Jets came away with a 2-1 win, they have gone in opposite directions. Coming into the game, Winnipeg had gone 12-11-1 in 2023 and had scored just 20 goals in their last nine outings. In the same span, the Oilers had gone 13-5-6 and were leading the league by averaging 4.21 goals per game. … Winnipeg acquired forward Vladislav Namestnikov on trade deadline day from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2025 NHL entry draft. Namestnikov, who had previously been traded to the Sharks from Tampa Bay a couple of days earlier, did not make it to Edmonton in time for the game. Also unable to make his debut for his new team was hulking centre Nick Bjugstad, dealt to the Oilers by the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. Bjugstad is expected to play for Edmonton on Saturday, in what will be his 600th NHL game. … Oilers forward Evander Kane missed his seventh straight game with an upper-body issue, but remains day-to-day and is expected to be back during their upcoming road trip. … Out with injuries for the Jets were Cole Perfetti (upper body), Mason Appleton (upper body) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (lower body). … Jets forward David Gustafsson returned after missing the last 20 games with an upper-body injury. … Draisaitl is the eighth player in NHL history to have back-to-back seasons with at least 24 power-play goals. … Yamamoto’s two goals in 40 seconds is the fastest pair of goals by an Oiler since Taylor Hall scored twice in eight seconds in 2013.
The teams play each other again on Saturday in Winnipeg, the start of a three-game homestand for the Jets and a four-game road trip for the Oilers.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2023.
Shane Jones, The Canadian Press