Game four of the seven-game road trip pitted your Nashville Predators against the Winnipeg Jets. The Preds came out flat, the Jets came out flying and twenty minutes of hockey later, the Preds were down 4 goals.
Bryan Little opened the scoring for the Jets at 3:04 of the first and it went downhill quickly from there. Carter Hutton was pulled five minutes later after allowing another two goals. Hutton gave way to Marek Mazanec who was called up earlier this week to allow Magnus Hellberg to get some playing time in Milwaukee. He stopped 1 of 5 shots in the first before settling in for a strong NHL debut. He finished the game with 22 saves on 24 shots.
The Jets also got goals from Olli Jokinen, Dustin Byfuglien and Devin Setoguchi in the first. It was Byfuglien’s first goal and one of his better games of the season. He played good minutes on both the power play and penalty kill and was responsible at even strength. Evander Kane was also back in the lineup after missing the last couple of games with an unspecified injury. Kane had an assist and fired 7 shots towards the net. Ondrej Pavelec turned away 41 Predator shots for his first shutout since March 1, 2012. Pavelec’s performance should be a welcome sight for the Jets after he was pulled in his last start.
The Preds played better in the second and third period, but could not overcome the slow start, or really get much going offensively. They outshot the Jets 41 – 32 but never really generated quality chances. Nashville was also 0 for 4 on the power play after posting 5 power plays goals over the last 3 games. They were able to kill off the three Jets’ power plays.
Viktor Stalberg was one of the better forwards on the ice for the Preds. He played 13:12 of even strength hockey and, along with Patric Hornqvist, was the only Pred who was not on the ice for a goal against. Stalberg and Hornqvist also combined for 9 shots on goal.
The Preds also moved the defensive pairings around a bit after the first. Shea Weber spent some time back with his old partner Roman Josi and some time with rookie Mattias Ekholm. While not exactly on display tonight, Seth Jones has developed faster than even his biggest fans could have imagined. Moving the pairs around could add some depth to the second and third pair and allow Jones to play some easier minutes as the season wears on. We’ll see if anything comes from this experiment.
The Preds are off Saturday and back in action on Sunday in New Jersey. Maybe it is time to give Hutton a rest and see what Mazanec can do.