Jets score three unanswered goals to beat host Oilers in season-opener (with highlights)
EDMONTON - It was, as the new captain of the retooled Edmonton Oilers so eloquently framed it, time to crack the seal.
So just what is it then that the Oilers have had under wraps since they were last seen in a regular season game? Well, for starters, they have their first loss of the season after dropping a 5-4 decision to the Winnipeg Jets at Rexall Place.
It was the Jets’ first regular-season visit to Rexall Place since March 29, 1996; the Oilers first season-opening loss since Oct. 3, 2009.
It had started with more promise. The Oilers scored on their first two power plays of the season and they outshot Winnipeg 38-28, but this is also a team that needs to work on its defensive game.
“Everybody has put in a lot of work to get here,” said Andrew Ference, the Edmonton-raised newcomer who was just as anxious to slip on the Oilers jersey as he was to see the captain’s ‘C’ stitched on it. “A lot of hours that go into everybody’s summer — prepping themselves not just for this moment but the year. This is just the start of it.
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“This is when you crack the seal and see what you’ve got. This is when the honesty starts.”
Two minutes after the curtain opened, Luke Gazdic, who was plucked off waivers on Sunday and was playing in his first NHL game, back-handed a puck that got by Ondrej Pavelec to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. Linemate Will Acton, another NHL rookie and one of eight new Oilers in the opening day lineup, picked up an assist.
One minute later, Jets forward Mark Scheifele beat Devan Dubnyk glove side then Bryan Little with his 100th career goal, wristed in a shot to give the Jets a lead that held until the Oilers power play went to work. Free-agent addition Boyd Gordon won his faceoff then tipped in a point shot from Justin Schultz.
“We can’t stay on it too long. We have to turn the page,” said David Perron, who skated with Jordan Eberle and Mark Acrobello in his first game as an Oiler. “That’s the mentality we have to bring. Coming from St. Louis, we’d win four in a row and just keep going. It was nothing special.
“We’ll see what happens, but I like the feeling going into the season with these guys. There’s probably 29 other teams in the league that would say that, but I played on some good teams in St. Louis, and I do feel this is pretty special group in this room.”
There are also players in the room who have been around for the losing seasons given that the Oilers haven’t seen the post-season since 2005. There have been other seasons that have opened with promise and closed with regret.
“We know it’s just not going to happen for us,” said Dubnyk, who was also beaten in the third by Michael Frolik then watched the end of the game as the Oilers were pressing with an extra attacker. “We all feel confident that we have the horses in here to go out and do it but we also know from the years past that it’s not just going to happen.”
Ales Hemsky, with some vintage moves, and Jesse Joensuu, with a rebound and a new fan base after his impressive night’s work, had given the Oilers a cushion that held until Taylor Hall turned the puck over at 11:06 of the third.
Defenceman Jacob Trouba, with a long distance slap shot, set the stage for a go-ahead goal by Frolik.
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