We look at the three best Oilers players, on a night in Winnipeg when the team was not at their best, but still did enough to deservedly beat the Jets.
Thursday night’s game in Winnipeg was in some ways a perfect illustration of how things have turned around of late for the Oilers. While it wasn’t the strongest performance you’re likely to see from them this season, they still deserved the 3-1 victory over the Jets.
Certainly it looked like it wasn’t going to be the Oilers’ night, despite outplaying their hosts. In the end however, they scored three times in the final seven minutes of the game to secure the win.
The victory means the Oilers have now won a season-high four games in a row, although there is still plenty to do. Regardless, let’s count down the team’s top three players on the night:
3) Darnell Nurse
Now that’s more like it – this is the Darnell Nurse fans were expecting to see. This is the version who can help the Oilers’ blue line play at a more acceptable level.
As the Oilers struggled through a disastrous start to the 2023-24 campaign, Nurse stood out as the poster child for the overall porous defensive play of the team. That’s what happens when you’re a former seventh overall draft pick, who’s making $74 million guaranteed.
However, the 28-year-old has really stepped up his game of late, particularly his performances versus the Ducks and Golden Knights. There was more of the same on Thursday night in Winnipeg.
Nurse had a team — and indeed game — high 24:02 minutes of ice time, as he superbly marshalled the game from the blue line. He’s in a zone right now with his defensive play, and it showed versus the Jets.
On top of this, the Hamilton, Ontario native scored the crucial tying goal at the 13:11 mark of the final period. There might have been some good fortune on how it got past Connor Hellebuyck, but they all count and it provided the impetus for the Oilers to go on and win.
In fairness to Nurse, even when things haven’t gone his way this season, he’s still put the effort in. This is best exemplified by leading the Oilers with 47 blocks on the season through 22 games, while being second on the team with the same number of hits.
Postgame, Nurse was asked about the perseverance and patience the team showed, after falling behind 1-0. Speaking to the media, he said:
"“The composure of the team was on full display there. I think for us to be down one there in the first and not open our game up and push for too much offence, at the same time knowing the chances were there that we did try and convert, it was a good sign of where the group’s going and I think we can build a lot of confidence off this game.”"