The Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators resumed hostilities on Saturday night at Bell MTS Place, as these two teams have played a lot of hockey against each other since the start of the 2017-18 season.
A win would clinch a playoff spot for Winnipeg, while some complex math could do it if they finished with a point. Nashville is also knocking on the door of the postseason.
The anthems were performed by the Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary. Damn, those guys can sing!
Not that I was in the building, but the playoff atmosphere seemed to be there. With a spot now assured, BRING ON THE WHITEOUT!
Sorry, getting ahead of myself. The Predators were the more dangerous team early, as they threatened two minutes in with a flurry of shots that Connor Hellebuyck dealt with. Patrik Laine rang one off the post nearly five minutes in, as the teams played a long stretch without a whistle, and there were only six breaks during the period.
A P.K. Subban tripping penalty resulted in no shots for the Jets, who were held to eight shots compared to Nashville’s 12 in the opening frame. Shots attempted were 20-18 in the Preds’ favour.
You know what doesn’t count as a shot on goal? Hitting the post, which Patrik Laine did again with 9:18 to go, which charged up the fans.
Tyler Myers had a glorious chance in the final minute, but couldn’t tap it in and things were tied at zeroes after one.
The Jets dodged a penalty early in the second when they had a rather sloppy line change that likely should have resulted in a too many men call but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. A short time later, Bryan Little got brought down but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Calle Jarnkrok tipped a puck into the Jets’ net at the 3:10 mark, with a call on the ice being goal. The refs went upstairs, and it was deemed to be hit with a high stick so no goal.
A little over a minute later, Kyle Connor opened the scoring for real, taking a Kevin Hayes pass at the blue line, undressing P.K. Subban and backhanded one past Pekka Rinne. A dandy of a goal for his 30th of the year.
Rinne earned some jeers after knocking the net off without any help around the seven minute mark, but it seemed accidental enough. He late robbed Mark Scheifele off of a one timer low in the slot with 11 minutes left to go. A minute an a half later he did it again, as Winnipeg brought the heat.
Connor Hellebuyck answered a Nashville response with eight minutes to go, preserving the lead. His hard work was rewarded when the Jets extended the lead. Andrew Copp went in two-on-one with Matt Hendricks, but whiffed on the one-timer set-up, which caused Rinne to sprawl out of position. Copp caught Rinne attempting to recover, and banked it in off of the Finnish netminder.
The Predators nearly got it right back, as Connor Hellebuyck bumbled a shot, and Filip Forsberg snapped one off the post.
Speaking of posts, Rinne forced his net off the moorings again, again drawing the ire of the crowd, and this time the ice crew attended to it. It worked to the good fortune of the Jets, as they extended their lead less than ten seconds later, as Kevin Hayes leaned into a slapped in a shot that squeaked between Rinne and that pesky post. As the old adage goes, put the puck to the net and good things happen.
The Jets faithful let Rinne have it with a Bronx Cheer on his next easy save, which was music to my ears.
Winnipeg outshot Nashville 19-9 in the middle period.
Winnipeg continued to press for more in the third period, much to the joy of the fans.
Calle Jarnkrok took a penalty around the halfway mark of the period. Despite three shots, Winnipeg failed to add to their lead. It took a while, but Winnipeg did eventually manage to make it 4-0. Kyle Connor scored his second of the night. Calle Jarnkrok and Matt Irwin crunched into each other, causing a turnover that Kevin Hayes jumped on. A pass to Connor led to another backhander getting past Rinne.
Just to really make sure it was over, a tic-tac-toe effort from Hayes to Laine to Connor to the back of the net saw Connor earn his first career NHL hat trick, and seeing both Hayes and Connor walk away with four point nights.
Jets win the season series 3-1-0.
After a 29 save shutout in the first meeting between the two teams this year, Pekka Rinne has allowed 13 goals on 104 shots against the Jets since, for an .875 save percentage during those three games (.902 including the shutout).
That new look second line was dynamite. Kyle Connor now has 32 goals this season, and Kevin Hayes has 10 points in 13 games since coming over from the New York Rangers.
The other Connor (Hellebuyck) had 33 saves in his second shutout of the week.
Tyler Myers and Dmitry Kulikov may have played their best game as a defensive pairing.
Despite being held off the scoresheet, the top line of Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers combined for 14 shots on goal, and looked dangerous.
Playoffs baby wooooooo!
Matt Hendricks is a possession black hole, and I tend to think his “intangibles” would be better if he was wearing a suit instead of a jersey on game day. He’s welcome to show the kids how to practice though, as I don’t question his work ethic .
The colour commentator said that Tyler Myers has the wingspan of a condor, but I know it is in fact closer to that of a tundra swan, which I learned at Fort Whyte Alive back in the day.
It is not pronounced Nathan “Bowl-ya”. It’s Chowdah! Say it right!