EDMONTON — Jesse Joensuu didn’t make much of an impact in parts of four seasons with the New York Islanders, but given another chance by the Edmonton Oilers, the 25-year-old Finnish forward made a good starting impression Saturday.
Joensuu played just 67 games with the Islanders after being drafted in 2006 and last year, with the NHL heading for a lockout, he returned home to Finland to play. He signed a two-year, one-way contract with Edmonton in July and in his first NHL action with the Oilers he had a goal and an assist in the team’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames
“My first game (back in the NHL), lot of things happen fast,” said the left winger named the game’s third star. “Some shifts were good, but I made a couple of mistakes. I was happy to score a goal and get some chances. When you’re a forward you’re trying to do something offensively.”
The six-foot-four, 210-pound forward, added to give the Oilers some much needed size and, they hope, grit, scored midway through the second period to give Edmonton a 5-2 lead.
The Oilers squandered that lead in the third period when they gave up three goals in four minutes and eight seconds just past the midway point. Lance Bouma, with his second of the night, ignited Calgary’s comeback and Josh Jooris, a college player trying to make the Flames scored twice in a 2:02 span to even the score.
Calgary outscored Edmonton 2-0 in the shootout to take the victory between the split squads. The Oilers won a split squad game 3-2 at the Saddledome.
Despite the outcome, Joensuu said the game, for him, was a “little bit of confidence booster to play again in the NHL and be healthy now.”
After his years trying to stick with the Islanders — he had eight goals and 15 points — and finally heading home last year, Joensuu isn’t feeling any pressure to make the Oilers. He’ll just give it his best shot and whatever happens, happens.
“I’m 25 now and I dreamt coming to the NHL as a little kid, that’s all I wanted,” he said in the virtually deserted Oilers dressing room after the loss. “They took that away from me. I went to Europe and thought I was never going to come back. Last season was a battle and grind with the injuries. Now being with the same group from the get-go means a lot.
“I’ve come back and I’m just happy with what they’re giving me. I don’t feel any pressure for anything because if I’m not good enough for the NHL so be it, I’ll play in Europe. I’m not going down (to the minors).”
Calgary’s other goals were scored by Ben Street and Dennis Wideman. Sven Baertschi and Roman Horak beat Olivier Roy in the shootout. Calgary goalie Reto Berra stopped both Linus Omark and Taylor Hall.
Hall, Ryan Smyth, Kyle Platzer and Mark Arcobello scored Edmonton’s other goals.
In the other split squad game taking place in Calgary, the Oilers got the go-ahead goal from defenceman Martin Marincin in the third period Saturday night as they opened their NHL pre-season schedule with a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames.
Emile Poirier nearly put the Flames ahead just prior but, in a bid for his second goal of the night, he rung a shot off the post.
On the go-ahead goal, Joni Ortio stopped Jordan Eberle but couldn’t control the rebound and it was whacked in by Marincin from in front with just under five minutes left in regulation.
Edmonton also got goals from Ryan Jones and newcomer David Perron.
Edmonton native Taylor Fedun had a pair of assists. Fedun, 25, played last year with Oklahoma City after missing the entire 2011-12 season with a broken femur. Fedun turned pro in 2011 after graduating from Princeton.
Calgary’s other goal came off the stick of veteran Mike Cammalleri.
The match-up was one of two split squad games taking place between the two provincial rivals. They were also were playing at Rexall Place in Edmonton.
Both teams split their goaltending with Calgary veteran Joey MacDonald starting against Jason Labarbera.
MacDonald yielded Jones’ goal on a tip-in 3:41 into the first period. It was the only goal he surrendered on 11 shots.
Labarbera, acquired in the summer to be Devan Dubnyk’s backup, was perfect on 12 shots faced for the Oilers.
Calgary had the more veteran lineup but it was Edmonton that took a 2-0 lead to the third period.
The Flames finally got on the scoreboard when a big rebound from Richard Bachman was buried by Poirier, who was one of the Flames’ three first-round picks in the June draft.
Selected 22nd overall, Poirier showed his quickness and nose for the net all night and was one of the best of the Flames rookies in the lineup.
Ortio, 22, who played in the Finnish Elite League the past two seasons and is one of five Flames goaltenders battling to replace Miikka Kiprusoff as the team’s starter, played the second half for Calgary and yielded two goals on 10 shots.
Notes: Throughout the game, special recognition was paid to the thousands of contractors that helped get the Scotiabank Saddledome game ready after the June flood. Contractors involved in the repairs were given tickets to the game. … Playing left wing with Sam Gagner and Eberle was Ryan Hamilton, 28, who has spent the past seven seasons in the AHL with the exception of 12 games he got into for the Maple Leafs. … The only fight was between Calgary’s Blair Jones and Edmonton’s Travis Ewanyk. … Edmonton was 1 for 3 on the power play while Calgary was 0 for 3.