The Edmonton Oilers capitalized on costly turnovers by the Winnipeg Jets in a 3-0 victory Sunday at Investors Group Field in the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.
The game, which was delayed two hours because of sunlight affecting the conditions of the rink, was largely determined by an eight-minute stretch in the second period and the strong play of Oilers goalie Cam Talbot.
Talbot silenced a largely pro-Jets crowd, turning aside 31 shots for the shutout. He joins Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames (2011 Heritage Classic) and Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks (2014 Stadium Series) as the only goalies to earn a shutout in an outdoor game.
With the win, the Oilers are now 5-1 on the season, the franchise’s best start since 1987. The only game the team has lost thus far was a home game against Buffalo last week in which Talbot delivered his worst performance of the year.
But Talbot was very focused in net at the outdoor game and has been especially strong for the Oilers over the past few games.
In fact, it has been a very significant week for Talbot. In addition to three big wins, Talbot became a father as his wife gave birth to twins, Sloane and Landon.
Judging by his performance in net on Sunday, Talbot must have felt the support from his newborns, as demonstrated by the photos his wife posted on Twitter.
— Kelly Talbot (@kellytrain) October 23, 2016
As for the game itself, the Winnipeg Jets had plenty of chances on the power-play, but the Oilers’ offense pounced on Jets turnovers and struck swiftly and effectively, as Mark Letestu, Darnell Nurse and Zack Kassian all found the back of the net in an eight-minute stretch of the second.
Letestu scored on a shorthanded breakaway after forcing a turnover at his own blue line. Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien misplayed the puck, sending Letestu off and running. It was definitely a goal Letestu won’t soon forget. Nor will I, as I have watched Letestu since he was in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Interestingly, it was only the second shorthanded goal scored in outdoor game history. Anton Babchuk of the Flames scored the other in the 2011 Heritage Classic.
From there, the Oilers took advantage of a Kyle Connor turnover, which sprung Connor McDavid and Nurse (who was leaving the penalty box) on a 2-on-1 against defenseman Tobias Enstrom. McDavid made a saucer pass that Nurse smashed into the net to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead.
Kassian continued his strong play this season by firing a wrister past Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck after rookie sensation Patrik Laine coughed up the puck.
From there, the Oilers essentially put on a clinic. Though the Jets had the much better play in the first, Talbot kept the Oilers in the game, and the Oilers took advantage of the chances they were given.
I have to admit, I am not generally a fan of the outdoor games. I realize that it’s good for the league to sell the game. However, with all the festivities surrounding the events, the quality of the actual game ends up lacking intensity. This was the case today, as the home team felt the pressure of the big stage. This is how outdoor games tend to go, though. The record for road teams in outdoor games is an astounding 14-4-1.
As an Oilers fan, I’m happy to be a beneficiary of this statistical trend. To win such a big spectacle is exciting, and I hope it’s a huge confidence booster for this young Oilers club to help extend the momentum the team has generated so far this season.
Featured Image Credit: Jason Halstead-AFP Photo