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This article was published 11/10/2018 (311 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
NASHVILLE — Just call it the Music City meltdown.
The Winnipeg Jets came completely unglued Thursday night, handing the Nashville Predators eight consecutive power plays before the game was two periods old, and nine in total, in what turned out to be a 3-0 loss.
"It does us absolutely no good to critique other people’s jobs," said an obviously frustrated Jets head coach Paul Maurice, clearly biting his tongue in a post-game chat at Bridgestone Arena.
His club took a total of 60 minutes in penalties, while Nashville had 16.
Maurice said the Jets took "two penalties we deserved" — we’re guessing that means he didn’t agree with the other seven called by referees Ian Walsh and Frederick L’Ecuyer — and said the half of his team that kills penalties was gassed while the other half that don’t play while short-handed were "drinking hot chocolate on the bench just trying to stay warm."
He was kidding, we think.
Ryan Hartman, Roman Josi and Ryan Johansen scored for the home team — the first two on blatant Jets turnovers — during what seemed like three of the very brief stretches of five-on-five action.
Nashville improves to 3-1-0, while Winnipeg drops to 2-2-0.
"It’s not my job," captain Blake Wheeler said when asked to explain why his club seemingly lost their composure, himself included, in taking so many infractions.
"We just got ourselves into trouble. We tried digging out and we couldn’t. That’s just how it goes. Every team is going to go through it sometime in the season and tonight was our night," said Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, who also spent time in the sin bin.
There was plenty of hype coming into the contest as a pair of hockey heavyweights squared off for the first time since their memorable playoff series last spring, which the Jets won in seven games.
The end result may have exceeded expectations while stoking the fire for future meetings.
It had a bit of everything: huge hits, great saves, periods of non-stop, end-to-end, high-event action (a stretch of 6:48 without a whistle at one point), after-the-whistle skirmishes, unlikely fighting combatants and controversy. Lots and lots of controversy.
The main talking point will clearly be the unusual disparity in penalties, which had Maurice and several of his players losing their cool.
"That’s a first," Maurice said about the eight straight minor penalties called against his club.
Defenceman Tyler Myers earned a 10-minute misconduct late in the second period when he mockingly clapped at one of the referees for a call against his club.
There was also a near-line brawl in which Wheeler dropped the gloves with Mattias Ekholm — after trying to fight Filip Forsberg earlier in the period — and Nikolaj Ehlers went toe to toe with Colton Sissons.
Nashville went 0-for-9 on the night, which is either a glowing tribute to Winnipeg’s penalty killing or a pretty damning indictment of their power-play setup. That included a couple of prolonged stints of 5-on-3 action.
"Stayed in the fight, stayed in the battle. That’s one heck of a night of penalty killing. They were outstanding," said Maurice.
The Jets didn’t get on the power play until the start of the third period, an opportunity they frittered away. They had a few scoring chances on a second man-advantage situation later in the frame, but Pekka Rinne stood tall. No doubt that felt pretty good for the Nashville netminder, who had a nightmarish playoff series against the Jets in May.
It’s hard to win when you are on the wrong end of those kinds of penalty statistics.
But make no mistake, Winnipeg’s penalties were mostly well-earned. They included: defenceman Ben Chiarot with a meaty slash, forward Patrik Laine clipping and cutting P.K. Subban with a high stick, Wheeler going after Forsberg for no apparent reason, Ehlers shoving Ryan Ellis into Winnipeg’s goal, defenceman Jacob Trouba with a vicious cross-check, Byfuglien running a Predator into the crossbar, another slashing infraction from Trouba, and a blatant interference call on, you guessed it, Trouba.
Winnipeg did have a few good chances but couldn’t capitalize. Early in the still-scoreless game, Byfuglien had a breakaway but was stopped by Rinne.
"Yeah, if it goes in, it’s definitely a different game. Even when we were in the box, I didn’t feel like we were ever really out of it, even at the end. It’s a couple bounces and a couple of shots and we’re right back in it. It’s hockey and that’s the game. All we can do is move on now," said Byfuglien.
Jets centre Adam Lowry was denied on a short-handed solo dash in the middle frame. Wheeler also had a late short-handed breakaway.
Nashville’s first goal was one Chiarot would love to have back. With his back turned to the play in Nashville’s end, Chiarot tried a cross-seam pass to Byfuglien. Hartman read it perfectly. The speedy Nashville forward picked it off, then beat Byfuglien before going in all alone on Connor Hellebuyck and beating the Jets goaltender just 3:02 into the second period.
Josi made it 2-0 near the midway mark of the final frame. Byfuglien gave the puck away in Nashville’s end, and the Predators quickly turned it around and converted off the rush, with the big blue-liner scoring on a slapper from the slot.
Johansen iced it later in the period with a silky-smooth backhanded deke of Hellebuyck, a few seconds after Byfuglien had wiped out trying to catch an airborne puck.
"Really, the three goals were breakdowns, things we’ve got to clean up. Other than that, large chunks of it was good," said Wheeler.
Rinne stopped 29 shots, while Hellebuyck made 27 saves.
Winnipeg and Nashville will meet three more times this season, but not again until Jan. 17 back at Bridgestone. The other two games, both at Bell MTS Place, are set for March.
"The game goes like that. Every team is going to go through it. We battled through it. We did a pretty job as a group. It could have been a lot worse," said Byfuglien.
The Jets flew home after the game. They’ll begin a six-game homestand — their longest of the season — Sunday night when the Carolina Hurricanes come to town.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Thursday, October 11, 2018 at 10:07 PM CDT: typos
11:42 PM: Full write through, adds photos
11:44 PM: Typos