EDMONTON — Taylor Hall looks like he is ready to get the regular season going.
Hall, who has finished in the top 10 in NHL scoring the past two seasons, scored a pair of goals as the Edmonton Oilers came away with a 3-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night in pre-season play.
“I feel good. I don’t want to be that guy who says ‘I’m in the best shape of my life and I never felt better,’ but I feel good,’’ Hall said. “For me, my stick handling, my shot, my skating is always there at the start of the year. It’s just my thinking of the game and the way I process it that takes a while to get up to speed. So that’s probably been my focus throughout training camp.’’
Mark Fayne also scored for the Oilers, who improved to 3-2 in exhibition play.
“I thought we played a pretty solid game,’’ said Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had a pair of assists for four points in three exhibition games. “Winnipeg always plays hard, they played us hard in Winnipeg too. It’s good that we seem to be able to get a lead and hold on to that. That’s something when it comes to regular season we have to be better at for sure. It starts in exhibition and I thought a few games in exhibition have been good in that sense.’’
Mathieu Perreault replied for the Jets, who fell to 1-3.
“You want to win no matter what, because we are competitive as professionals, but at the same time you have to learn from these games and do better in the next one,’’ said Jets defenceman Mark Stuart, who made his pre-season debut. “We did do some good things and threw some good shots on net, it was just not quite the emotional effort that you want.’’
Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice said that one positive was the play of Perreault, who signed a three-year deal as a free agent this summer after splitting last season between Washington and Anaheim.
“Mathieu Perreault is a really good player for us,’’ said Maurice. “He is going to fit really well and bring a lot five-on-five and five-on-four. I really like what he has. He can handle and move the puck and create some open space.
“It’s good to have (Stuart) back and have some strength on that blue-line as well.’’
Edmonton got on the board first, scoring on their first shot of the game three minutes into the first period. Junior-aged training camp invite Vladimir Tkachev continued his strong play as he seeks a contract, making a cross-ice pass to Fayne that he blasted high to the glove side past Winnipeg goalie Michael Hutchinson. It was Tkachev’s third assist in three games for the Oilers.
Edmonton looked to have taken a two-goal lead on the power play with six minutes left in the opening period, but Tyler Pitlick’s goal was called back due to incidental contact with the Jets’ goalie.
Winnipeg had a glorious chance to tie the game with two minutes left in the first with several whacks during a scramble in front of the Oilers net, but couldn’t manage to get one past Edmonton starter Viktor Fasth.
Edmonton went up 2-0 two minutes into the second on a power-play goal as Nugent-Hopkins threaded a long saucer pass through a maze in front to hit Hall on the fly. He scored his first of the pre-season on a shot that Hutchinson got a piece of, but couldn’t stop.
“It was great pass, it’s a new look on the power play for us,’’ Hall said. “It was really created by Pitlick getting open and attracting guys to him. It worked out tonight, I would have liked to get a few more chances on the power play to work on it but that will come as the pre-season wears on’’.
The Jets finally found the back of the net themselves six-and-a-half minutes into the second as Perreault used an Oilers defender as a screen and sent a wrist shot into the net that Fasth could only wave at.
Hall used a similar screen technique three minutes later as he stopped on a dime and then sent a shot through traffic and Hutchinson’s legs and into the net for his second of the game. Daniel Taylor came in to replace Hutchinson in Winnipeg’s net after the goal.
The Jets outshot the Oilers 26-15 through 40 minutes.
There was no scoring in a rather uneventful third period that saw each team register only two shots apiece.
The Jets return home to continue pre-season play against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. Edmonton next plays host to the Arizona Coyotes.
Notes: It was the second pre-season meeting between the two teams, as Edmonton came from behind to record a 3-2 win last Wednesday in Winnipeg The two teams played each other three times last season, with the Jets winning two of the three games The Oilers made five roster moves on Monday, sending Curtis Hamilton, Kale Kessy, Iiro Pakarinen, Jason Williams and Martin Gernat to the Oklahoma City Barons. Edmonton captain Andrew Ference left Sunday’s game against Chicago with an arm injury after being hit by a shot, but is reportedly all right to return The most serious injury for a Jets’ perspective remains off-season acquisition TJ Galiardi, who is still recovering from an eye injury that required surgery Edmonton fans got their first look at a couple of players who are expected to improve their defence in off-season acquisitions Nikita Nikitin and Fayne Jets forward Patrice Cormier left the game early in the third after appearing to have a broken stick strike him near the eye.