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By Carter Brooks

Photos by James Carey Lauder

The Winnipeg Jets will play their final preseason tuneup game on Thursday night at home, before the puck drops on the 2018-19 regular season.

By Carter Brooks

Photo by James Carey Lauder

The Winnipeg Jets have found all sorts of ways to win hockey games this preseason. Whether its by way of an unsurmountable lead, a close back-and-forth victory, or a come-from-behind overtime thriller, the wins just keep coming. 

By Carter Brooks

Photos by James Carey Lauder

Following a 7-3 thrashing in Edmonton on Thursday evening, the Winnipeg Jets hosted the same Oilers in a preseason showdown from Bell MTS Place Sunday evening, hoping for a different result. With the teams boasting very different lineups from the ones seen just a few days prior, the results on the scoreboard were also flipped on Sunday.

Although getting on the board rather quickly, the Jets fell behind midway through the game, but led by their veteran leaders and a stellar rookie performance the crew battled back to maintain their perfect home record this preseason, with a decisive 5-3 victory on home ice.

With Edmonton’s Brad Malone in both for crosschecking three minutes into the period, Winnipeg’s top power play took just one minute to capitalize on the man advantage, jumping out to a 1-0 lead on Mark Scheifele’s first goal of the preseason. Captain Blake Wheeler found his running mate all alone in the slot from the bottom of the circle, and the 25-year-old made no mistake beating Oilers’ netminder Mikko Koskinen low far side for the first goal of the game.

Although jumping ahead to the early lead, Winnipeg did little-to-nothing else memorable in the first period, ultimately finding their lead snatched from within their grasp as the period progressed. Edmonton scored a stinker on a long seeing-eye Kailer Yamamoto shot from the point midway through the frame, before Ethan Bear blasted a power play marker past Connor Hellebuyck, following some serious Oilers puck control.

Hellebuyck was able to bounce back from the two quick Edmonton strikes with a much needed breakaway stop on Pontus Aberg. After an ill-advised offensive rush up ice on a Jets’ line change, defenceman Tyler Myers was stripped of the puck, leading to Aberg’s chance at putting his mates up by two goals.

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After spending the last five seasons playing overseas in the KHL, 6-foot-7 netminder Mikko Koskinen looked right at home for the Oilers, stopping nearly everything the Jets threw at him. Patrik Laine nearly had fans at Bell MTS Place up on their feet with less than a minute to play, but his powerful wrist shot from the slot rattled off the crossbar and out, preserving Edmonton’s 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.

The Jets knotted up the game up at twos on Skyler McKenzie’s first professional goal – a deflection off a Joe Morrow point shot eight minutes into the frame. Shortly after McKenzie’s equalizer, defenceman Dustin Byfuglien found himself in the penalty box for the second time of the night on a slashing minor. Although the result of penalties typically favour the team on the man advantage, the Jets’ offensive minded penalty killers jumped on an opportunity and capitalized while down a man.

Scheifele broke up an Oilers breakout before finding Wheeler, who took the puck wide before cutting hard to Kostinen’s right. He slid the puck cross ice to Scheifele, who tapped it past the lean goaltender, handing Winnipeg a 3-2 lead, on just its eighth shot of the game. The Jets finished the second period trailing 29-9 in the shot department.

The third period was a brand new game for Winnipeg, as the shots came much easier, the goals continued, and the penalties died off. With Malone already in the box for the second time, Edmonton’s Zack Kassian was called for a slashing minor, handing the Jets an extended two-man-advantage. It took Winnipeg’s top power play just 32 seconds to strike on the 5-on-3.

Wheeler collected his first goal and third point of the game on a perfectly placed wrist shot that went bar-down past Kostinen from the slot. Byfuglien picked up his second assist of the game on the power play marker, while Scheifele also registered his third point.

McKenzie added to his memorable performance midway through the third, as he began an odd-man-rush up ice, before fellow prospect C.J. Suess centred the puck back to McKenzie for an easy tap in. The 20-year-old former seventh round draft pick picked up his first two goals (deflection and tap-in) in Winnipeg’s 5-3 win Sunday.

“It felt unbelievable,” he said post-game. “I can’t even explain the happiness that’s going through me and my family right now; we’re just super excited. My phone is blowing up, I can’t even go through it right now.”

Winnipeg doubled its shot output in the third period, bringing up its totals to a respectable 21 shots on net, but compared to Edmonton’s 41, that number does not look too pleasing. The Jets will now head out to Calgary for a Monday evening contest against the Flames. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00 P.M. central, and the game will be available on TSN3.

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