WINNIPEG – The Nashville Predators avenged two losses to the Winnipeg Jets in the last two weeks with a 4-1 win on Thursday at MTS Centre. The injury ravaged Jets suffered a second straight loss and have just three total goals over their last three games.
Ryan Johansen, Craig Smith, James Neal, and Calle Jarnkrok lit the lamp for Nashville while Nikolaj Ehlers replied with the only goal for the Jets.
“It definitely hurts.” Ehlers said. “We played a pretty good game, full 60 minutes. We had some good chances and weren’t able to execute.”
“It definitely hurts in a sense that we thought we were the better team for a lot of that game.” Jets defenceman Tyler Myers said. “You look at the opportunities we had in the second especially. A lot of grade A scoring chances. We weren’t able to bury them. It hurts to lose but that one hurts for sure.”
It was the third meeting already this month between the two clubs with the Jets coming out victorious the first two times. The two sides have split their four games this season.
Alex Burmistrov was scratched at game time after leaving the game day skate early. He was replaced in the lineup by Patrice Cormier. The Jets were already without injured forwards Mark Scheifele, Drew Stafford and Adam Lowry.
“We got enough good players.” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “You’re going to have injuries. We were a good enough team to outshoot them 11-2 even strength in the second period so then you got to be a good enough team to win the game.”
Matt Halischuk left the game briefly in the first period after getting hit into the end boards. He appeared to hurt his right arm/shoulder and he went straight to the dressing room but returned a short time later.
Pekka Rinne wasn’t overly busy in the Predators goal making 26 saves in the win. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 24 of 27 shots in starting an eighth consecutive game for Winnipeg.
“I thought we played a good game.” Hellebuyck said. “I thought the guys were working together well. They’re really controlling the momentum there, especially in the second period. You just hate to see that outcome.”
Hellebuyck was clearly frustrated afterwards and was asked if he played a good enough game.
“Next question please.” said Hellebuyck.
The Jets struggled to get sustained pressure on the powerplay finishing the night 0-for-4 with the man advantage. The Jets record against Central Division opponents is now just 6-12-1 this season.
“We’re in a tough spot here now with the losses that are mounting here at home.” Maurice said.
With the game just four minutes old Joel Armia made a long stretch pass and found Ehlers who broke in all alone. Ehlers lifted it over Rinne’s trapper to open up the scoring. Mathieu Perreault also had an assist and Ehlers’ ninth goal of the season had the Jets in the drivers seat.
The Predators evened the score before the end of the first period. With 3:21 remaining and Anthony Peluso in the box for a kneeing penalty, Hellebuyck made the initial save on Neal from the slot. But Johansen quickly banged in the loose puck for a powerplay goal. Mike Ribeiro had the other assist on Johansen’s ninth goal of the season. The shots were 13-7 in favour of Nashville in the first.
The Jets had all the momentum at the start of the 2nd period but then Craig Smith stepped in off the sideboards and snapped it top corner. Smith’s 10th goal of the campaign from Petter Granberg and Mattias Ekholm gave the Preds their first lead of the game.
There’d be no scoring for the next 33 minutes but then with just 1:52 left in regulation Johansen won the draw clean. Neal hit the goal post and the puck bounced off Hellebuyck and in to seal the Predators victory.
Just 25 seconds later Jarnkrok scored into the empty net to rub a little salt in the wound.
Adam Pardy was a healthy scratch.The Jets continue their homestand Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils.
WATCH:Maurice and Jets players discuss a 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday.