Ehlers scores two, Jets take 3-0 series lead over Oilers with 5-4 comeback OT win
Winnipeg Jets' Nikolaj Ehlers (27) celebrates his game-winning goal with teammate Logan Stanley (64) in the first overtime period during NHL Stanley Cup playoff action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Winnipeg on Sunday, May 23, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade)
WINNIPEG -- Nikolaj Ehlers scored his second goal of the game in overtime and the Winnipeg Jets stormed back with three unanswered goals in the third period to beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-4 on Sunday, taking a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven opening-round playoff series.
The Jets can win the series with a victory on Monday.
Mathieu Perreault, Blake Wheeler and Josh Morrissey scored three Winnipeg goals in a crazy three minutes and three second stretch of the third to send the game into overtime.
Leon Draisaitl had two goals and an assist, while Zack Kassian and Jujhar Khaira also scored for Edmonton. Connor McDavid had a pair of assists in front of no fans at Bell MTS Place, where the Oilers went 4-1 in the regular season.
Connor Hellebuyck made 44 saves for the Jets while Mike Smith stopped 32-of-37 shots in defeat.
Winnipeg won Games 1 and 2 in Edmonton, taking the opener on Wednesday 4-1, then following it up with a 1-0 victory in overtime on Friday.
The Jets were bolstered by the return of Ehlers, who hadn't played since April 24, sitting out the last 11 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. In a remarkable comeback, his goal at 9:13 of the extra period gave the Jets a stranglehold of the series.
The Oilers jumped out to their most aggressive start of the series, and were rewarded when Draisaitl put Edmonton on the scoreboard at 6:33 of the first period, pulling the puck back and wrapping it around the post past a sprawled Jets netminder Hellebuyck.
The lead was Edmonton's first of the series since early in Game 1, and only their second goal since then.
Draisaitl doubled the Oilers' lead at 9:10 of the first on a two-man advantage, lurking outside a scramble inside of the net, then slotting it home - the third multi-goal playoff career game for the 29-year-old German.
The offensive outburst from Draisaitl and McDavid felt like a long time coming for nervous Oilers fans. McDavid led the NHL in scoring with 105 points while Draisaitl was second with 84, yet both had been held off the scoresheet through the first two games.
The Oilers outshot Winnipeg 17-7 in the frame.
Ehlers got Winnipeg on the board when he scored on a power play at 17:13 of the second, launching a wrist shot into the far corner past Smith.
Any Jets momentum didn't last long. Barely a minute after Ehlers' goal, Kassian restored Edmonton's two-goal advantage. Kassian finished off a three-on-two with Draisaitl and McDavid, connecting on a beautiful pass from Draisaitl to snap a wrist shot past Hellebuyck.
The Oilers outshot Winnipeg 13-9 in the second.
Edmonton padded its lead at 4:43 of the third when Khaira, with his back to the net, perfectly deflected in a shot by Adam Larsson.
Perreault breathed life into the Jets, scoring with a slap shot on a power play at 11:41 of the third. That goal sparked a wild stretch of three unanswered Jets goals. Winnipeg's captain Wheeler sliced the difference to just a goal at 14:28, then just 16 seconds later, Morrissey scored from deep, and it was a tie game.
Edmonton outshot Winnipeg 48-37.
The Oilers (35-19-2) finished second in the North Division ahead of third-place Winnipeg (30-23-3), and took the season series 7-2. Both teams had better road records than at home. The Oilers were 19-7-2 on the road, while Winnipeg was 17-10-1.
It's the first post-season series between the two teams since 1990, when Edmonton beat the Jets in seven games in the Smythe Division semifinals.
The NHL's all-Canadian North Division was a necessity in a season plagued by COVID-19.
Game 4 is Monday in Winnipeg. The series heads back to Edmonton for Game 5 on Wednesday, if necessary.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2021.