The first fifty minutes of regulation were full of positive things for the Oilers, but they all mean nothing because of the collapse that followed. So let’s just skip ahead and get to the part that matters. Draisaitl had two goals and an assist, McDavid had three points, and one of my favorite players who’s been a dog on the puck and a relentless forechecker all year, Jujhar Khaira, scored his first career playoff goal. It was 4-1 Oilers, until Josh Archibald laid a scumbag hit on Logan Stanley, and got sent to the box at an awful time once again. That’s when it all fell apart.
Dubois fired a cannon of a one timer at Smith, and the rebound caused a net front scrum to ensue that resulted in Mathieu Perreault stuffing it home to bring the Jets within two on the powerplay. Play would resume with just over eight minutes left, with the score 4-2 Edmonton.
The Oilers continued to play sloppy and lazy with the lead, resulting in Kulikov making a terrible pass that bounced off of a skate and onto the stick of Josh Morrissey, who dished it to Mark Scheifele. Scheifele shot it, created another rebound and Wheeler tucked the loose puck just under three minutes after Perreault’s goal. 4-3 Oilers with just over five minutes left.
The ref dropped the puck at center ice, Adam Lowry snapped it back to Morrissey, Morrissey skated it in and fired a clap bomb past Smith just 16 seconds later. This is where Smith was visibly rattled and to me, the game was as good as over. Smith’s body language resonated across the Oilers lineup, and they all looked like they almost expected to blow the lead. Edmonton gave up three goals in three minutes and three seconds. If you’re an Oilers fan, you probably call bullshit on the saying “good things come in threes,” and if you’re a cynical one, you’ve probably just gained a whole new understanding of the rule of threes in comedy. The Jets tie the score at 4-4 with 5:16 to go.
Now let’s backtrack just a bit. I fully expected the Oilers to lose coming into tonight’s game, especially with the news of Nikolaj Ehlers returning to the lineup. The effort they put forth in the first two games was so lackluster in comparison to that of the Jets’ that I pretty much expected a sweep was imminent. Lo and behold, Draisaitl scores twice in period one of game three and McDavid assists in both goals. It had seemed our heroes had come to life and there was perhaps hope for the Oilers yet. Then, the Oilers take a bad penalty in period 2, the Jets go to the powerplay and whadda ya know, Ehlers gets a cross ice pass from Pionk and snipes it post-in to bring Winnipeg within one. Discipline has been a huge issue for the Oilers since the regular season, and it didn’t seem to matter as much when their powerplay was humming, but it’s sticking out like a sore thumb now here in the playoffs. The two powerplay goals scored by the Jets were the difference tonight.
Now, Kassian would score shortly after courtesy of, you guessed it, Draisaitl and McDavid, and then Khaira scored in the opening half of the third, but the writing was on the wall. Nikolaj Ehlers was back with a vengeance, and he was here to prove he’s a premier NHL winger capable of being an absolute game breaker. When Morrissey sent it to Overtime, Ehlers wanted the game on his stick, especially after seeing just how rattled Smith and Oilers were becoming with each close call in the last few minutes of the game. Just 9:13 into overtime, Stastny won an offensive zone draw back to Ehlers, who sniped it bar down from the top of the circle. 5-4 Jets, final. It’s a 3-0 series lead.
Don’t get me wrong, McDavid and Draisaitl came up big tonight, and they really could’ve used some secondary scoring from other teammates beyond Khaira. That doesn’t change that they simply got smothered when it came to crunch time. McDavid didn’t take any offensive chances after the three minute collapse in regulation. Draisaitl wasn’t making space for himself anymore, there was one point in OT he got straight up bullied off of the puck by Andrew Copp. They looked like different players in the last twenty minutes of play.
Ryan McLeod actually had one good shift in overtime, but besides that he wasn’t noticeable in the first sixty minutes. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was a non-factor once again, and got cancelled out hard by a great stick from Paul Stastny on his best chance in the extra frame. Kailer Yamamoto had the Oilers most dangerous overtime chance, but it wouldn’t go, and he still has zero points in the series. Puljujarvi had his worst game of the playoffs tonight. On the one night McDavid and Draisaitl had big performances, there was nothing there at all to back them up. This has been the narrative of the Oilers for years, but I had a feeling this might’ve been the year they flip the script. Serves me right.
The Oilers will be staring down the barrel of a sweep as they lace them back up tomorrow night in enemy territory. The way the Jets rallied late in the third tonight you’d have thought they had the energy of the Winnipeg whiteout fueling them, but the only whiteout in the arena is the empty, white seats. That’s pretty disturbing, because it proves that the Jets have just simply been the better team all series long. Even when it looked like they might’ve missed a step, they found a way to dig deep and get it done in an empty arena. So when the Oilers hit the ice in that empty arena tomorrow, they’ll have no excuses to come out flat. They have to find it within themselves like the Jets have done through the first three games. There is no home ice advantage here. Big thanks to my Morning Skate colleague Jenkins for tonight’s cover photo. I think it pretty much sums up how we’re all feeling about the Oilers.