After hosting nine games through the 2021 NHL season, the empty, cavernous space inside Rogers Place was never more apparent.
Had it been filled with 18,500 fans on Wednesday, most of them would’ve had lots to celebrate.
Connor McDavid earned his 500th NHL point — and his coach, Dave Tippett, his 500th NHL win – as the Edmonton Oilers (9-8-0) beat the Winnipeg Jets (9-5-1) by a score of 3-2, for their fourth win in their last five games.
After recording two assists in the Jets’ win over the Oilers on Monday to get point 498 and 499, McDavid didn’t allow for much anticipation to build.
His primary assist on Jesse Puljujarvi’s opening goal came just 3:45 into the first period – giving the Oilers an early lead.
McDavid achieved the feat in 369 career games, the exact amount of time it took for fellow Canadian phenom Sidney Crosby to do the same.
They’re now tied as the fastest active player to reach the milestone – but both were still a long way from Wayne Gretzky’s record of 234 games.
Just 21 seconds later, Leon Draisaitl broke in and wired a wrist-shot past Connor Hellebuyck to double the Oilers’ lead.
The Oilers took three penalties to close out the first period – two by Darnell Nurse, for interfering with Kyle Connor and high-sticking Nikolaj Ehlers.
With 54 seconds to go in the frame, Mark Scheifele’s shot tipped of Jujhar Khaira’s stick and through Smith to get the Jets on the board.
Scheifele extended his point streak to eight games with the goal, now with 12 points in that span.
Both teams tightened up the defence to begin the second, but Draisaitl wouldn’t be denied on the Oilers’ third power-play of the game, tucking a rebound over a sprawled Hellebuyck and under the crossbar for a 3-1 lead.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the first player to head down the well-trodden path to the penalty box in the third period, after slashing Adam Lowry.
Neal Pionk’s blast on the ensuing four-on-four play cut the Oilers’ deficit to one. Of the eight games the Jets have played in February, Pionk has points in seven of them.
The Jets ratcheted up the temperature in the final 10 minutes of regulation, spending most of it in the Edmonton end, but Smith held his ground, finishing with 31 saves on 33 shots for a .939 save percentage.
Hellebuyck stopped 27 of 30 for a .900 rate.
With the win, the Oilers evened the season series at 2 games apiece.
The two teams won’t see each other again for an entire month — their next meeting comes on Mar. 18 in Edmonton.
Both clubs are back on the ice Friday — Edmonton makes the trek down the QEII to face Calgary, while Winnipeg continues westward for a meeting with the Vancouver Canucks.
Kelly Moore has the pre-game show live on 680 CJOB and cjob.com at 7:00 p.m., and Paul Edmonds and Jamie Thomas have the call at 9 p.m.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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