Paul Stastny was the hero in overtime and Connor Hellebuyck was brilliant once again as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Edmonton Oilers 1-0 to take a 2-0 series lead in their opening-round playoff series.
On a night when both teams were denied concrete scoring chances, it was a harmless-looking shot that decided the contest. Stastny took a drop pass from Andrew Copp at the top of the circle and beat Oilers goaltender Mike Smith with a wrist shot through a crowd of Edmonton defenders and into the top corner.
“I feel like in overtime whether you’re trying to score or generate offence, that’s the easiest way to do it,” Stastny said. “Fortunately, the puck had eyes and it went in.”
Hellebuyck finished the night with 38 saves for the shutout, the third of his career in the playoffs and has stopped 70 of 71 shots in the series.
“He’s the reason we have a chance,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler of his goaltender. “He’s the reason we’re a playoff team and the reason we have confidence whenever we go out there. It’s such a great confidence boost for the group to feel like you don’t have to play perfect hockey.”
It was a nail-biter from start to finish as neither team was able to score in regulation. A goaltending duel between Hellebuyck and Edmonton’s Mike Smith set up a long night for both teams.
The tempo was much higher from both sides in the opening period, compared to the sluggish start to Game 1. The Jets were hot out of the gate, outshooting Edmonton 13-6 in the opening 10 minutes of the game as star forwards Mark Scheifele and Connor McDavid traded scoring opportunities.
But the Jets did not have an answer for Smith. The veteran netminder denied Winnipeg of a clear-cut scoring opportunity, when Kyle Connor was all alone in front of the net but denied twice by the pad of Smith.
The Jets went on to outshoot Edmonton 17-11 in the period, much different than Game 1 when the shot total was 6-6 through 20 minutes.
Things cooled down into the second period for the Jets as they managed only four shots on goal in the early going. And while the Oilers began to find their offensive touch, Hellebuyck stood in the way and was unbeatable through 40 minutes.
The Jets goaltender kept the score deadlocked at zero with some key saves, including a pair of stops on Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse. Hellebuyck denied Nurse on a half-breakaway early in the second period and stopped him again with his pad from in tight after the puck fell to Nurse at the top of the crease.
To start the third period, Hellebuyck was forced to come up big again. The former Vezina Trophy winner robbed Leon Draisaitl with his pad on a one-timer opportunity during an Oilers five-on-three. And the goalie got some help from his teammates as Dylan DeMelo used his arm to blindly block a Connor McDavid shot from the slot. DeMelo briefly left the game after the play but would return later in the third.
“Just pure chaos and desperation,” DeMelo said of his save. “I just put my hands up and luckily it hit me.”
Shots in the third period finished 11-10 for the Oilers as Hellebuyck and Smith turned away every chance thrown their way. Thanks to that goaltending masterpiece, regulation ended scoreless, setting up the first period of overtime in the series.
Stastny’s game-winner came just 4:06 into the extra period when his wrist shot went over the glove of Smith. It’s the veteran centre’s 26th career playoff goal, 9th post-season game-winner and 2nd overtime winner. It was the only shot on goal for the Jets in overtime as Edmonton outshot Winnipeg 4-1 and 38-36 overall.
McDavid and Draisaitl, the NHL’s top two scorers in the regular season, were held pointless for a second straight game.
“There’s a cost to it. We’re not generating a tremendous amount of offence in the game, but that’s the price that has to be paid to be on the right side for the most time,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “We’ve had to give a little up here to give ourselves a chance and when we haven’t Connor Hellebuyck has.”
The Jets now return home with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Winnipeg hosts Edmonton in Game 3 on Sunday night. You can listen to the game live on 680 CJOB with Kelly Moore, Paul Edmonds, and Jamie Thomas with the pregame show starting at 4:30 p.m. and puck drop just after 6:30 p.m.
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