It was a game build up to be a playoff preview and it did not let us down. The Nashville Predators battled to the last-minute and pulled out a major win.
To quote announcer Willy Daunic, or Jack Buck from Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series: “I don’t believe what I just saw.” The game had all the making of a classic. Two teams vying for supremacy in the division. Clubs going all in for the playoff push by acquiring key players in trades. And two teams that know how to win. After the dust settled, the Nashville Predators stood alone atop the Central Division.
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The numbers are ugly but do not tell the true story of the game. The Predators played a great first period, leading in shots and scoring chances. But the Winnipeg Jets stood tall leaving the game scoreless after 20 minutes. The second period saw the puck in the net 7 times. The Jets scored first, but Craig Smith put the Predators on the board almost 9 minutes into the period. Mark Scheifele scored two goals in a row, including one on a power play, giving the Jets a 3-1 lead.
The Predators fought back. Kyle Turris notched his 11th goal of the year, then Mattias Ekholm scored with one second left on a power play. However, the Jets Nikolaj Ehlers gave his team a one-goal lead after two periods. And his team was 29-0-1 when leading going into the third period.
Newly acquired Paul Stastny extended the Jets lead to two goals, but Smith scored just 55 seconds later. Ryan Johansen then tied the game at 5, leading to a great last few minutes of the game. With one minute remaining, Ryan Hartman scored his first goal as a Predator, giving the team a great win.
First of all, the Nashville Predators hold a four-point lead in the Central Division with 87 points. The Jets are in second with 83 points, with a surging Minnesota team at 79 points. With 20 games to go, the Predators lead in the standings is not huge, but puts pressure on the rest of the division. As the Wild is surging, the St. Louis Blues are falling quick. The Dallas Stars are still in the hunt for a playoff spot as well. But, for right now, the Central Division goes through Nashville.
Next, Roman Josi is pretty good. The Nashville Predators tallied six goals against the Jets. Josi gained an assist on five of those goals. The defensemen pushed the play towards the net and found teammates at the right time. He now leads the Predators in assists with 34 on the season.
Josi’s biggest assist of the night was his last. With the game on the line, Josi shot the puck towards the net where Hartman was waiting. The puck hit Hartman’s stick and slid past Connor Hellebuyck. It was a rather impressive game for the new winger. In 13 and a half minutes, Hartman attempted 8 shots, four of which were on goal. He was all over the ice, putting pressure on the Jets’ goal and being physical when needed. It was just one game, but he appears to fit what Nashville needs. Guess David Poile knows what he is doing.
With this win, the Nashville Predators are 17-7-6 away from home. Last year, they were 17-20-4 on the road. They are currently on pace to have their best record on the road since the 2011-12 season.
And, finally, you can never could out the Predators now. It is the second time in two weeks in which they came back from 2 goals or more down in the third period to win the game.
It was an amazing game, and one worthy of a repeat. Good thing these two teams face each other two more times this season. Then, maybe again in the second round of the playoffs. It will be a series to watch.