EDMONTON - A wild back-and-forth scoring affair was the story of the night as the Winnipeg Jets rallied from down 4-2 to tie the game late, eventually scoring with 5:02 left in regulation and escaping Edmonton with a 5-4 win over the Oilers on opening night.
"It's one thing when a team beats you," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "You seem to be a little okay with it but not when you hand them a game like that. It doesn't feel very good."
The Oilers claimed Luke Gazdic off of waivers from the Dallas Stars on Sunday and the move appears to be paying off. Gazdic scored his first NHL goal on the first shift of the first NHL game of his career.
At 2:21 of the opening period, centre Will Acton won the draw to the left of Winnipeg goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and the puck bounced to Gazdic who was wide open near the goal line. The newly acquired forward back-handed a shot inside and it appeared to deflect off of the stick of a Jet and in past Pavelec.
Acton was also credited with the assist in his first NHL game action.
Winnipeg tied the game on the power play at 3:25 when centre Mark Scheifele sniped a shot top shelf, glove side of Devan Dubnyk.
Edmonton native Bryan Little made it 2-1 for the away team when he skated from left to right across the face of the Oilers goaltender and shot a pretty puck top shelf over the right shoulder of Dubnyk. The goal at 16:12 was assisted by defenceman Tobias Enstrom.
The first period madness continued when Ales Hemsky found defenceman Justin Schultz at the point. The blue liner fired a shot inside and the Oilers, free agent pick up, Boyd Gordon, tipped the puck from chest-height to tie the game 2-2. That goal on the power play was the first of Gordon's Edmonton career.
The Oilers took their second lead of the night early in the second period when Ryan Smyth screened Pavelec out in front and Hemsky scooped up the puck and danged deep into the face-off dot on the left side of the Jets goaltender and rifled a perfect wrister top shelf, glove side and the Oilers took a 3-2 lead. The goal was assisted by Taylor Hall and Smyth at 3:38 of the middle frame.
The lead increased to two when another Oilers newcomer, Jesse Joensuu, scored on the power play at 7:53 of the second. Mark Arcobello notched his first NHL point when he wound up and let loose a rocket inside. Pavelec made the save with Jordan Eberle swiping at the loose puck. The biscuit popped out to the middle of the crease where a waiting Joensuu swiped at the early christmas present and gave the Oilers a 4-2 lead.
"If you get up by a couple of goals, things are going in your direction," said Eakins. "But even the two goals they got at that point, they were gifts. For me, it should have been 4-0 at that point. If the other team is going to work hard and get those chances and maybe if they've got it going that night, that's one thing. But our group, we can not hand people goals and games like that. That's unacceptable."
The Jets went back on the offensive and began their rally as Michael Frolik spun and shot, scoring short-side as the puck hugged the post at 16:18 of the second and Winnipeg drew within one, down 4-3.
Gazdic dropped the gloves with Chris Thorburn late in the second period, landing some heavy right blows in a clear decision in favour of the Oiler.
In the third period, Hall gave the puck away in the neutral-zone and Winnipeg's Jacob Trouba, the ninth overall pick in 2012, scored his first NHL goal from just inside the blue line with under nine minutes to play. The goal knotted the game up at 4-4.
The Jets continued their comeback flight plan by taking a 5-4 lead over the Oilers with 5:02 to go in the third period. Eric Tangradi spun around in front of Dubnyk and Frolik buried his second goal of the night.
With 1:24 to play, Arcobello had a point blank shot on Pavelec but the Winnipeg goaltender was up to the task and swallowed up the heavy shot.
The Oilers coach pulled Dubnyk late and the Oilers had several big scoring chances including an Eberle shot that went just wide with about 30 seconds remaining.
"I thought we played well enough and any night that we score four goals I've got to be able to at least get us a point," said Dubnyk who made 23 saves in the loss.
The late flurry of shots by Edmonton was not enough for the Oilers who would fall to Winnipeg 5-4 in Edmonton.
"It was black and white," said Oilers captain Andrew Ference. "When we made decisions and when we took opportunities to make plays, they were there and when we forced plays when they weren't there it usually ended up as a long shift or a good chance for them. I don't think it's going to be any scratching our heads wondering what happened."