It was quite possibly the biggest moment on the grandest of stages in the career of 25-year-old Nikolaj Ehlers. Unfortunately, no one was there to see it.
Having missed a month of action, the speedy winger made his return to the Winnipeg Jets’ lineup on Sunday evening for Game 3 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a matchup with Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.
Having held McDavid and running mate Leon Draisaitl off the board through two games, Winnipeg was unable to shut down the league’s best duo in the third game, giving up six points to the two on Edmonton’s first three goals of Sunday’s game.
Yes, as you could imagine, you could fool them once, maybe twice… but not three times – or so Edmonton thought.
Taking a quick 2-0 lead midway through the opening frame, Nikolaj Ehlers gave the Jets life late in the second period with a goal in his return to the action. But taking the wind right out of Winnipeg’s sails was Zack Kassian, who restored Edmonton’s two-goal lead just one minute later.
Entering the third period down 3-1, the Jets saw their deficit increase as Jujhar Khaira gave the Oilers a 4-1 lead midway through the frame.
But a senseless low-bridge hit by Josh Archibald gave Winnipeg a power play. With 8:19 left in the game, Mathieu Perreault put the Jets back on the board. Then with 5:32 to play, Blake Wheeler hammered home a rebound off a Josh Morrissey point shot, bringing each and every ‘reporter’ in the building right back into the game.
Edmonton’s Josh Archibald will have a hearing Monday for Clipping Winnipeg’s Logan Stanley.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) May 24, 2021
“I think this is the best way to make him pay for what he did,” Perreault said of Archibald. “We don’t like what he did, we don’t really like to see it. It wasn’t a very good play on his part. And we’re pissed about it and we go out and score a goal and there’s no better way to pay back so obviously the goal we scored, was huge.”
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Then, just 16 seconds later, Morrissey tied the game on a long-range point shot, that found its way through Mike Smith, knotting the two teams right back up at fours with just five minutes to play.
“We won the draw, got the puck in deep and I got a great pass from Lows first of all,” Morrissey said of his marker. “Just great vision (from Lowry), and I just tried to get a shot through from the point. Thankfully it went in and it was just an exciting moment. Obviously, as Wheels said, I couldn’t even imagine what the arena would have been like with fans, but it was a huge for us and certainly as exciting.”
Despite a number of solid chances both ways, the Jets and Oilers finished the scheduled 60 minutes deadlocked on the scoreboard. For the second time in three nights, the two clubs required an extra period to determine a winner.
On an offensive zone face-off, Game 2 overtime hero Paul Stastny won the draw cleanly to Ehlers, who immediately ripped it past Smith high, glove-side. He instantly bolted down the ice and past the Edmonton bench, celebrating the Jets’ third victory of the opening round in style.
“You always dream of scoring these kinds of goals,” Ehlers said. “But, for me, tonight, it was a matter of getting out there, play simple and use my speed as much as possible. But you know, this was a team effort. A full, I don’t know how many minutes we played, but a full 70-plus good effort. Great game and it’s exciting.”
🚨🚨Night Cap Recap: Ehlers Wins It in OT 🚨🚨#gojetsgo #letsgooilers #stanleycup #hockeytwitter #lwos @DavidBastl @RawMikeRichards @sauga960am @lastwordonsport @LastWordOnPuck @FullPressNHL @ryanpaton75 @CBrooksie84 @iglen31 @Pammerhockey @ScottOake pic.twitter.com/ejWQb0Oc8P
— Jim Biringer (@JimBiringer) May 24, 2021
The two teams will go right back at from Bell MTS Place just 24 hours later, as Game 4 is set for an 8:45 PM central puck drop in Winnipeg.
#NHLJets' Blake Wheeler: "It's too damn bad our fans weren't in the building because that would have have been something."
— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) May 24, 2021
“As soon as we leave the rink tonight,” Ehlers said when asked about when his attention will shift to Game 4. “You gotta enjoy a game like this tonight but our next game is tomorrow night and we want to finish this series off. We battled back hard tonight and now it’s just a matter of going home, getting some sleep and getting back to the rink tomorrow and being ready for that game. Obviously there’s some things that we’ll have to adjust to.”