The Edmonton Oilers made the most of a bye week to adjust parts of their game they felt needed work, and the effort showed in their first game back.
The well-rested Oilers looked sharp in their return to play as they blanked the Winnipeg Jets 3-0 in a pivotal North Division matchup on Saturday.
Mike Smith stopped all 26 shots he faced for his third shutout of the season and 42nd of his career.
“Any time you have a couple of days off, you can regroup and look at your game and tweak the things that need to be tweaked and build on the things that you like,” said captain Connor McDavid, who had two assists.
“The players did a good job of buying in at practice and working hard to keeping ourselves ready and coming out and getting rewarded for it.”
The Oilers were coming off a lopsided 5-0 defeat against the Calgary Flames last Saturday. That loss, coupled with a Winnipeg victory, pushed Edmonton into third in the division.
Coach Dave Tippett said his players were determined to use the six days off to work hard and get back to their winning ways.
“The last few days we’ve had good energy, there was a really positive feeling around our group,” said Tippett. “They were anxious to play, which is a good sign. We had the chance to get some good practice time in and work on our game a little bit.
“It’s not as if we did anything new this week. We reviewed some stuff that’s been in our game all along. When you have a chance to review some of it, you get refreshed with it.”
Tyson Barrie, Jesse Puljujarvi and Alex Chiasson scored for Edmonton (26-12-2), who are now three points behind the Jets (27-15-3) with two games in hand.
The Oilers came out with a jump in their step and Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck needed to put on a show in the first period to keep them at bay.
In a two-minute span midway through the frame, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner denied Kailer Yamamoto and Chiasson on breakaways before shutting the door on Zack Kassian with a dangerous tip in front.
Both teams came into the game with identical second-ranked power plays but Edmonton finished 2 for 6 with the man advantage while Winnipeg went 0 for 3.
The Jets took four penalties in a row between the first and second periods and the Oilers’ dangerous power play made them pay on the fourth one.
With Neal Pionk in the box for hooking, the Oilers finally managed to sneak a puck past Hellebuyck when Barrie one-timed McDavid’s setup from the point, through traffic, at 12:00 of the second.
“Leon (Draisaitl) had five good looks from that one side and Tyson had a couple of good looks from up there,” said McDavid. “We’re a power play that’s going to take what you give us, and that’s what they wanted to give us. We did a good job capitalizing.”
The Oilers doubled their lead when Puljujarvi converted a beautiful no-look, one-handed pass by McDavid from behind the net at 6:37 of the third. Two Jets defencemen converged on McDavid, leaving Puljujarvi all alone in the crease.
“He’s the best player in the world for a reason,” said Jets forward Mark Scheifele of McDavid. “You just can’t give him time and space. He’s so tricky with the puck. He makes plays that a lot of people don’t make in this league. You have to be aware of him every time he’s on the ice.”
Chiasson put the game to bed for the visitors with Edmonton’s second power-play tally of the game when he redirected Barrie’s slap shot from the point at 12:57.
Notes: The Oilers improved to 5-2-0 versus Winnipeg this season. … Draisaitl had two assists for Edmonton. … Hellebuyck stopped 22 of 25 shots in defeat.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 17, 2021.