Predators take bite out of tired Jets squad
Nashville beats Winnipeg 2-1
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NASHVILLE — Playing their final game of a long road trip, the Winnipeg Jets put forth a valiant effort against a Nashville Predators team desperate to get back into the playoff picture.
But the task proved too big in the end, as the Jets wore down as the game went on, with the Predators capitalizing on a tired group to earn a 2-1 win at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday.
“We played hard, for the most part, and just let up when we shouldn’t have and they didn’t,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “Their goalie made some huge saves for him, our goalie made some huge saves for us. It certainly wasn’t a 2-1 game in terms of offensive opportunities for either team, but both goalies were outstanding.”
The Jets finished their five-game run away from home with a disappointing 2-3 mark, with the loss against Nashville dropping their record to 31-17-1, putting Winnipeg in second place in both the Central Division and Western Conference, one point behind the Dallas Stars.
The victory improved the Predators’ record to 23-18-6. Nashville still has a bit of ground to make up to cross the playoff line, three points back of the Calgary Flames for the second wildcard spot, with a surging Colorado Avalanche also a point ahead.
Let’s take a deeper look into this one…
1) There’s no doubt the Jets were a tired group having to play their fifth game in eight nights, and at times it looked like fatigue played a factor.
Winnipeg was the better team in the first period, a frame in which they outshot their opponent 15-12, but Nashville turned the tide in the second, taking it to the Jets for much of the 20 minutes, firing 20 shots on net compared to five by the visitors.
The Predators evened the game in the second, with Winnipeg native Cody Glass scoring his sixth of the season, tipping home a Roman Josi shot from the point. The goal, which came at the 13:49 mark, seemed to set the tone for the rest of the game, as Nashville continued to push throughout the third.
Tanner Jeannot would give the Predators the lead for good 5:38 into the final period, beating Connor Hellebuyck with a wraparound goal. It was the first time the depth forward has scored since Oct. 27.
The Jets didn’t go away in the third period. They found ways to generate chances and came close to scoring on a few of them. They were particularly dangerous in the final moments, with Hellebuyck pulled, but couldn’t find a way to beat Juuse Saros.
“We’re on the road for a week, come back for one game, back on the road for eight days, 16 games in 28 days in December, 15 in 30 in January – it’s a lot of hockey,” said Jets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois. “But we still have to have that same attitude and same mindset going into games. I’d say three posts, with two posts in the last minute and a half is a pretty big game-changer.”
2) It shouldn’t be a surprise that the game turned into a goalie’s duel. It’s something that probably should have been expected given who was between the pipes at both ends.
Hellebuyck and Saros are in the midst of stellar seasons and are the two goalies representing the Central Division in the NHL all-star game next month. They lived up to the billing on Tuesday, with each netminder doing enough to give their club a chance to win.
“Seen enough of their guy over the years to know how great a goalie he is and Connor all year has just been outstanding and kept us in a lot of games. Both of them were on tonight,” said Bowness.
There were several chances coming from both sides and both netminders were up to the task. Hellebuyck finished the game with 39 saves, while Saros countered with 32.
3) It’s been an impressive stretch of games for Cole Perfetti.
The Jets rookie had a slow start to the road trip, going pointless in the first two games in Montreal and Toronto. Against the Leafs, Perfetti was dropped from the top-six and put on the third line with Adam Lowry and Saku Maenalanen.
Since then, Perfetti has returned to the playmaker the Jets expect him to be. He scored in a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, snapping a 15-game goalless drought, and the next night set up Kyle Connor on a 2-on-1 in a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.
On Tuesday, he wasted little time finding the scoresheet, drawing an assist on another beautiful pass, this time to Pierre-Luc Dubois. Perfetti retrieved a pass from Dylan DeMelo with his skate, kicking the puck up to his stick before turning around and firing the puck through a pair of defenders onto the tape of Dubois, who deposited it into an open net for his 21st of the season.
“Playing with two guys like that, you know what they can create and their offensive abilities,” said Perfetti. “We’re going to get better and better every game. We created lots of opportunities today, but the puck didn’t go in after that first one. It’s a pleasure playing with them and I’m having so much fun doing that, giving passes to these guys. It makes the game fun. Hopefully, we build off this trip a little bit and keep creating that way.”
There’s some obvious chemistry brewing between Perfetti and his linemates Connor and Dubois. The 21-year-old is taking full advantage of his opportunity and appears to be the perfect fit for that left wing on the Jets top line.
4) Logan Stanley returned to the lineup for the first time since injuring his ankle against the Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 9 and was only the third time he’s played since Oct. 24, as he dealt with a second injury to the same ankle.
Indeed, it’s been a tough season for the Jets defenceman, who has had few opportunities this year to show the new coaching staff what he can do.
Turns out the Jets were trying to get him a game this trip and when he felt good, he got the nod, resulting in Dylan Samberg being a healthy scratch on his 24th birthday.
Stanley logged 12:49 minutes of ice time, playing on the third pairing with Nate Schmidt, and was an even plus-minus. He also provided an early spark to the team, delivering a heavy hit against Glass and then getting the better of Alexandre Carrier in a fight, all within the first 1:15 of the game.
We want that big, physical presence back there and he certainly gave us that right off the bat,” said Bowness. “For his first game after a long layoff he played very well.”
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
Updated on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 12:13 PM CST: Corrects typo