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This article was published 13/2/2015 (2082 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
NASHVILLE -- 'Keep Calm We Have Pekka" read the flag at Bridgestone Arena Thursday night. That was a very wise strategy for the Nashville Predators.
Goalie Pekka Rinne did a solo job on the Winnipeg Jets in as dominant a goaltending performance seen in some time. Point of fact, Rinne has been doing this to the entire NHL this season and is building a very solid case to not only win the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie but also the Hart Trophy given to the league MVP.
The Predators were outgunned all night but the Jets just couldn't put enough pucks past Rinne and fell 3-1 in a sweaty Central Division contest.
The Jets dressing room had an edge to it following the game with the atmosphere more representative of a playoff loss than a regular-season night in February.
"The posts were better than anyone else out there. It was a hard-fought game. From the 10-minute mark of the second period we were a really good hockey team. I liked our game a lot, except for the result," said Jets coach Paul Maurice.
"(Our players) spent a lot. They invested a lot in that game and didn't win, so that hurts even more. Now you have to reload. You have to get back on your horse and get that good feeling. Everybody will be quiet for the night and then we'll get back to work in the morning."
Winnipeg is now 28-19-10 for 66 points and remains in a wild-card playoff position.
Nashville remains the NHL's best team with a 37-12-6 mark and Rinne is by far their key ingredient. Thursday night's victory gives him a league-leading 32 wins and the Predators, one year removed from missing the playoffs, appear destined to be a top seed in the Western Conference.
The biggest difference is a healthy Rinne. Rookie Filip Forsberg, along with sniper James Neal and playmaker Mike Ribeiro have helped, but as evidenced in this game, for the Preds it begins and ends with Rinne.
"We did a lot of good things. Their goalie was just out of his mind," said Jets newcomer and veteran winger Drew Stafford.
Rinne shut the door on a third-period five-on-three Jets power play and made huge saves on Brian Little, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele throughout the game. The Jets outshot the Predators 33-26.
The Jets held a territorial edge and had the superior scoring chances.
"Rinne played well. He's a good goalie. He's played awesome all year. We just couldn't get one by him. We hit a few posts. That's the way hockey goes sometimes," said Wheeler.
"It was right there. A bounce or our way and it could have been a different game. He really battled and he's playing with a lot of confidence. Even when you have a good look, he's not giving you much room. Not many teams come in here and put 30-plus shots on them."
Nashville capitalized with its power play as both Shea Weber and Forsberg popped man-advantage goals.
Weber scored in the first period as he pounded a heater by Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
The Jets got even and went to the dressing room tied 1-1 after 20 minutes on Michael Frolik's 11th of the season.
The second period saw the ice begin to tilt in Winnipeg's favour, but Forsberg was the only player able to score, giving Nashville a 2-1 lead.
The Jets whipped a load of shots at Rinne in the third, but he wouldn't break, and late in the frame James Neal took the air out of the game with his 19th of the season for a 3-1 final.
VEGAS BABY: The Predators will be well represented at the NHL's awards night in Las Vegas this summer. Rinne will be up for the Vezina and possibly the Hart. Weber absolutely has to be a Norris finalist and many have already slated Forsberg in as winner of the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Throw in coach Peter Laviolette as a Jack Adams coach of the year possibility and the Preds will have a strong case to have ownership charter them a private jet for the event.
NEW GUYS: Maurice liked the way his two newest players, Stafford and Tyler Myers, looked in their first game with the Jets.
"I liked them both a lot," said Maurice. "The range Tyler has in the corner and the way he can jump in and I thought Drew was good on the puck and really involved."
Stafford didn't like the fact his team lost but was very enthused with the way the Jets played and to once again be part of a playoff race.
"It's been a really long time since I've been part of a game like that with that kind of atmosphere," said Stafford. "Every game counts now and we need points in as many as we can. It reminds me of those teams I was on a few years back when we were in those playoff mixes in Buffalo."
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @garylawless
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