Wednesday night was a tale of two teams going in unexpectedly different directions. The Winnipeg Jets were supposed to be bottom feeders of the Western Conference. The Edmonton Oilers were supposed to be making strides towards the playoffs.
Alas, the roles have been reversed. Winnipeg continues to move up the standings as winners of three of their last four (and points in all four games), while Edmonton continues an incredible streak of ineptitude, not for lack of trying.
Though the score was tied for much of the contest, there were very few times that the Jets didn’t seem to be controlling the bulk of the play. The statistics suggest as such, optically it seemed to be the case, but stellar play from Ben Scrivens did little to help the Jets cause.
Losers of ten straight games coming into Wedneday night’s game, the deciding goal nearly came early in the third frame.
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From the moment the puck dropped to begin the final period, the Oilers looked like a team that, simply put, wanted to break the streak. Taylor Hall went streaking into the Winnipeg zone, put the puck on goal, several chances came, and, eventually, a David Perron shot would find its way to the back of the net. The Oilers, who have led only four times in the entirety of this current losing streak, seemed primed to finally add to the win column.
However, on a night when it seemed as though Winnipeg’s only chance at a second goal would be on a deflection, the Jets got just that. Parked in front of the net, Dustin Byfuglien tipped a Mark Stuart shot from the blue line past Scrivens to tie the game with little more than three minutes remaining in the frame.
Then, in overtime, the Oilers run of poor luck continued. Seventeen seconds into the extra frame, a Jacob Trouba shot deflected off the stick of Mathieu Perrault into the net behind Scrivens. The Oilers streak stretched to 11, and the Jets kept pace in the Central Division.
Again, tonight’s game is a perfect example of what could be considered a must-win for Winnipeg. With Chicago moving up the standings, Minnesota picking up a victory, and Nashville’s incredible play looking like it’s far from ending, the Jets need to keep pace with wins over struggling teams. And make no mistake: despite their recent record, Edmonton is a much better team than the luck they’ve been getting.
This is a win Winnipeg needed, and the kind of win they continue to get. That’s the mark of a team ready to compete. If the next 50-plus games keep this way, Jets hockey is going to have a shot at playing past game 82.