By Shane Jones
EDMONTON — The Winnipeg Jets are keeping pace in the wild-card race.
Lee Stempniak scored the winner and goalie Ondrej Pavelec made 33 stops as the Jets continued their work to solidify a playoff position with a 4-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.
Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers and Michael Frolik also scored for Winnipeg (38-23-12), which has won five in a row and gained important points in the Western Conference playoff race.
“We want to continue to keep this thing rolling,” Stafford said. “We’re not looking any further than tomorrow night against a desperate Vancouver team. They need the points as much as we do, the race is tight, so we’re going to make sure we’re trying to take care of our job and stay focused on the task at hand.”
Added Jets head coach Paul Maurice: “Based on the two games we played prior with Edmonton, I’m happy with the way we played. It wasn’t perfect, we’re scratching and clawing right now.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins responded for the Oilers (20-40-13), who have lost nine of their last 11 games.
“I don’t think we played a bad game,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “We out-shot them, and for a lot of time out-played them. We just couldn’t find a way to score and gave them a few too many good chances.
Winnipeg got on the board first, six-and-a-half minutes in, as Stafford picked off an Oscar Klefbom pass and blazed into the Oilers zone before beating goalie Ben Scrivens with a wrist shot for his fourth goal and eighth point in his last six games.
Both teams lost players in the opening period as Edmonton defenceman Andrew Ference left with an upper body injury and forward Boyd Gordon went out with a bad back.
“They were missed tonight,” said Oiler forward Matt Hendricks. “Guys had to play extra minutes and in different position than they are used to. Subsequently, it was kind of a chase all night.”
Winnipeg lost winger Blake Wheeler after he took a deflected puck to the face, however he was able to return for the start of the third.
The Jets made it 2-0 five minutes into the second period as Stempniak was able to smack home a rebound during a scramble in front of the Edmonton net.
Winnipeg took a three-goal lead with four minutes remaining in the middle period as Myers ripped a shot off the post and in during a two-man advantage.
Pavelec kept the lead intact with a kick save on a late short-handed chance by Benoit Pouliot.
However, Nugent-Hopkins got the Oilers on the scoreboard just over a minute into the third with a wrist shot from the slot that beat Pavelec on the short-side.
Winnipeg got that goal back on the power play with just under eight minutes to play in the third as a big rebound came back to Frolik and he lifted his 17th of the season over Scrivens.
The Jets return to action on Tuesday in Vancouver. Edmonton next plays host to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday.
Notes: It was the final of three games this season between the two teams, with the Jets winning both the previous encounters in Winnipegâ€¦ Oiler forwards Jordan Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins each came into the game with 14 points apiece in their last seven gamesâ€¦ Scrivens made his 15th start in Edmonton’s last 16 games.