Even before the Olympic break, there were certain games Nashville Predator fans knew were important for the stretch run. This was one of them. The Winnipeg Jets were only two points ahead of the Predators at the start of game action, and creeping closer to the final Wild Card spot was a definite possibility with a win.
The franchise that's only seen the playoffs once, however, seemed to want that last spot all for themselves. Despite being outshot 2:1, the Jets used the stellar play of Ondrej Pavalec (yes, you read that right) to fuel them to a win, putting a rather large distance between them and the Preds in the standings.
- Congrats to Simon Moser, Swiss Olympic hero, for scoring his first NHL goal. We wish it could have come in a better game, dude.
- Ryan Ellis saved a goal late in the second period. Unfortunately, it didn't matter. Just a few minutes later Andrew Ladd tipped a shot through Carter Hutton and put the Jets up by two. The seemed to zap away any life the Preds had left.
- Pavalec is many things: Czech, a human being, possibly a goaltender (I'm trying to confirm that.) But tonight he was definitely the difference-maker, as he made himself as big as a house and wasn't letting anything through him. It wasn't for lack of trying by the Preds, either. Nashville had 40 shots on goal, and only one was able to touch twine.
- Blake Wheeler is stupid fast. It showed when he burned Shea Weber with the fire coming from his rocket skates to set up Devin Setoguchi's goal. That was the final nail in the coffin.
- The momentum and energy the team had at the end of the Lightning game was present and surging during the first park of the game. It disappeared quickly as soon as Ladd scored. It wasn't until Moser got his goal that the players started skating again. That's no way to win games, especially at this time of year.
- Finally, what was masked during the Tampa Bay game was Nashville's inability to produce much at even strength. Relying on your power play does not a good team make. (Especially when the power play goes 0-for-6.)
Welp. That was the opportunity they needed to seize. Had the Predators won the game, they would have tied the Jets in points with a game in hand. They would have also been only two points behind the Dallas Stars, pending the outcome of the their game tonight.
None of that matters now. We talked about how games against the teams they were chasing were going to make or break any playoff aspirations they had. Losing this evening all but assures the obstacles they need to overcome pretty much insurmountable. I might need to change my contacts, but I'm almost positive I saw price tags on some of the players as they were leaving the ice...
Roll the video highlights...