Winnipeg – A crowd of 31,317 turned up at Investors Group Field on Saturday to watch teams of former Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers square off in the Alumni Heritage Classic. And those cheering for the Jets went home happy, as Teemu Selanne scored his second penalty shot goal of the afternoon with just a few seconds remaining on the clock for a come from behind 6-5 win.
The skies clouded over just in time for the puck drop at 3:23 p.m. And conditions were about as ideal as you could expect for the 3rd weekend of October with a game time temperature of 11 degrees.
Selanne gave the Jets an early 1-0 lead about 4 1/2 minutes into the game when he scored on his first of two penalty shot goals of the game. Bob Essensa turned away Mark Messier on a penalty shot attempt at 8:14, and about 90 seconds later, the Finnish Flash set up former Jets Captain Kris King who stuffed home his own rebound to make it 2-0.
Selanne’s 3rd point of the period resulted in a Dale Hawerchuck goal just 1:17 later and it looked like the Jets were on the way to an upset. According to Rogers Sportsnet’s stats department, the Oilers lineup had accumulated 14,879 career NHL points compared to just 10,770 for the players wearing Winnipeg jerseys.
Edmonton’s Mark Messier made it a 3-1 hockey game when he was set up in he high slot by longtime line mate Glenn Anderson. But the Jets Mike Eagles upped the Winnipeg lead to 4-1 before the intermission.
The Oilers scored 3 unanswered goals in the middle frame to tie it 4-4. And then ex-Captain BJ MacDonald gave Edmonton their first lead of the game just before the midway mark of the 3rd period.
Perhaps it was an omen- but just seconds after it was announced in the press box that the game would be decided in a three round shootout in the event of a tie, King scored his second goal of the day with 3:13 remaining as Selanne assisted on his third goal.
And with only 11 seconds left, Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada Analyst Craig Simpson collided with Selanne in the Winnipeg zone, and Teemu capped off the storybook finish according to Oilers Captain Wayne Gretzky.
“Oh listen, there’s nothing negative at all about the day,” said The Great One, who said his own game stunk, but he’d forewarned people to temper their expectations. “It was a tremendous crowd for an alumni game. The hockey wasn’t great, but it was competitive and the game ended the way it should end. With the best player on the ice on the home team scoring a big goal.”
Following the game, with Kris King along side him at the podium, Selanne made it sound like he was inspired by his 2 goal and 3 assist effort when he was asked if he felt pressure or was motivated by the idea of being expected to be the best player in the game long before the puck was even dropped. “No, not at all. I’ve only skated twice in the last 2 years. But I think now I’ll start playing a little more,” Teemu said. “I played in the NHL 2 1/2 years ago so I know if I skated a few more times it would be a different story. You know in Anaheim there are only ice times at 11pm or midnight and usually I have better things to do at that time so that’s why I haven’t skated.”
And King “revealed- tongue in cheek” why he was such an unexpected offensive force in the game. “I thought I was terribly coached throughout my career,” joked the Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations. “I actually think the pressure of playing for money was the biggest reason. Once they stopped paying me, I found my hands again.”
And now those stars of the past will “hand” things off to the stars of the present and future when the current Jets and Oilers square off Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. in the Heritage Classic.