In the most anticipated matchup of the season, the Nashville Predators grounded the Winnipeg Jets through defense and goaltending.
What. A. Game. From the moment the puck was dropped, the Nashville Predators showed energy and passion. It was something they were lacking on Tuesday night against the Flames. With the rival Winnipeg Jets invading Bridgestone Arena, the Predators needed a complete game.
It was certainly short of perfect. But when the final horn blared, the Predators shutout the Jets, 3-0.
It was everything we hoped it would be. Two elite goaltenders were tasked with stopping two talented rosters. It was a rather even match during 5v5 play. The Jets led the shot battle at even-strength, but the Predators gained 6 more scoring chances. Both teams finished with 8 high-danger scoring chances, and the Predators scored on three of those opportunities.
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Pekka Rinne was tested early and often, but stoned every puck sent his way. All 29 shots were kept from finding twine behind the Vezina Trophy winner. He certainly shows no signs for slowing down with age. The long-time Predators goalie now has 52 shutouts on his career stat sheet.
The defense turned into offense for the Predators, and Ryan Hartman was the star of the show. The first goal of the game came from Hartman just three minutes into the second period. The young forward skated into the passing lane and flew down the ice. Even with Dustin Byfuglien draped on his back, Hartman flipped a backhanded shot over the blocker of Connor Hellebuyck.
The second goal was created in a similar fashion. Hartman again steals the puck in the Jets’ offensive zone and pushes the action toward Hellebuyck. The Jets recover a bit, breaking up a pass to Calle Jarnkrok. However, Ryan Ellis gathers the loose puck and sent it to Roman Josi. The Captain does not miss with his blaster.
The last goal comes as Filip Forsberg tries to stretch the ice with a pass to his linemates. The puck finds Viktor Arvidsson, then Ryan Johansen. The top-line center spins and lifts the pucks over Hellebuyck. Three great goals from the Predators.
Not all pretty
There were some very ugly moments. Winnipeg was called for 60 minutes of penalties, giving the Predators nine power plays. Nashville would end the game without a power-play goal. Most of their chances on the man advantage were rather nauseating to watch. The Jets gained several chances to score short-handed goals because the Predators could not get set on the power play.
Play was extremely physical, but the Nashville Predators held their composure well. The Jets were called for 13 penalties, including three misconducts and two fighting penalties. This did give us a great gif featuring Mattias Ekholm and Colton Sissons throwing punches.
Only three true penalties were called on the Predators. Zac Rinaldo was called for cross-checking after the second period concluded. Kevin Fiala tripped Jacob Trouba, and then Dan Hamhuis called for roughing.
The game gave the Predators two well-earned points. It also set the tone for the team moving forward. Nashville played fast and put pressure on the Jets all night long. If they can play this way against the Western Conference favorite, what can they do to the rest of the league?
It was the best game the Nashville Predators have played in quite some time. The rest of the season could be amazing.