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Nashville Predators 1, Winnipeg Jets 0: Turris Scores, Saros Blanks Jets In Nailbiter

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That was a little more exciting than I really needed in the middle of my afternoon.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

The Predators flew north to Winnipeg hoping to build on a spectacular victory in Chicago as they took on the Jets. The Jets’ last game involved blowing a third-period lead, a familiar feeling to Preds fans; they were looking to move past that loss.

The inevitable cliche is that games between division rivals are for “a big two points”; that said, the Jets are immediately ahead of the Predators in the Central Division standings, blocking their path to the second wild card spot. A win here helps the Preds; a win here also bumps the Jets into slightly more secure position. Good news: it was the Preds who got that win.

The Preds got off to a good start, getting dangerous chances in the Jets’ end and getting back into that end quickly when they were pushed out. I was going to praise one line or another, but they’ve all looked good through the first few minutes. If I had to pick one line with a particularly good start, though, it’d be the Nick Bonino - Rocco Grimaldi - Craig Smith one.

Eventually, Roman Josi provoked Dmitry Kulikov into a kneeing penalty and the Predators went on the power play. Although they didn’t score, they had some lively and dangerous puck motion until the Jets managed to clear the zone, at which point the Jets’ aggressive penalty kill was able to keep them out. Andrew Copp had a fantastic shorthanded breakaway on Juuse Saros, who was able to make the save, and the penalty expired with the score still tied at zero.

Mason Appleton bounced one off the crossbar in a flurry in front of Saros about halfway through the period, but the crossbar was kind and sent it up instead of in. Instead, two minutes later, Kyle Turris was able to convert on a great steal and pass by Yakov Trenin. Moments later, that line, with Colin Blackwell, was creating more dangerous chances around Connor Hellebuyck. The Predators having four lines that are all a threat to score is fantastic news.

There was a small delay with 3:06 left in the period while Saros got his skate and pad situation sorted out, with help first from the Preds’ bench and then from one of the referees. Play resumed with Trenin breaking up an odd-man rush as Patrik Laine swooped in. There was another pause to deal with Saros’s bits of string as the Jets went offside, and it was a relief when the period came to an end.

The Predators were back on the attack to start the second, but Josi got caught out of position and took a hooking penalty on Kyle Connor, giving the Jets a chance against the Predators’ porous penalty kill. However, a combination of luck, effective penalty-killing, and getting saves when they needed kept the Jets off the board.

The line of Matt Duchene, Mikael Granlund, and Calle Jarnkrok was the next to really jump out, with some dangerous-looking chances in the offensive zone. The Jets then iced the puck on the following shift, and the Predators kept the pressure on but were unable to convert.

Moments after that, a little over halfway through the second, the Jets started to push back harder, getting more time in the Preds’ zone and more dangerous motion around Saros’s net. Some of this time involved the third defense pairing out against the Jets’ top six. Some of this time also involved great defensive plays from guys like Jarnkrok and Grimaldi, freed to outthink their opponents instead of trying to outmuscle them. The Jets pressured particularly hard to close out the period, but the defense and Saros were able to help the Preds maintain their lead, and the last shot of the period was taken by Viktor Arvidsson at the buzzer.

Jarnkrok started the third period with Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen, with Filip Forsberg rejoining Duchene and Granlund on what I think we need to call the first line. The third period started with more good forechecking from the Predators, but then the Jets got their skates back under them. Halfway through the third, Duchene was whistled for a penalty during a scramble in the Jets’ zone, and the Preds were put shorthanded again.

Fortunately, they were able to kill the penalty off, but the Jets continued to pour on the pressure. The Johansen line managed to get a quick chance with Hellebuyck down on the ice, but the Jets were able to keep them away, and then Nikolaj Ehlers hit the post on the counterattack. As the clock ticked down, the Preds broke out of their own zone and the Johansen line got some time in the offensive zone.

Duchene missed a fantastic chance with less than two minutes left in regulation, and Hellebuyck cleared off the bench. Mattias Ekholm tried for the empty-netter but iced the puck. The tension in the building kept ramping up higher, Josi also made an attempt at the empty net, and also missed. However, Saros held firm and got the shutout win.

Random Observations:

  • This is actually the first game of the Hynes era I’ve seen; I was unwell this week and missed both the Bruins and the Blackhawks games (yes, I also missed Rinne’s goal, and yes, I’m mad about it). I’m liking this so far.
  • Yannick Weber not covering himself in glory as a top-pairing defender, folks.
  • Really hoping that as the offensive strategy changes, someone can convince Josi that he doesn’t have to do everything himself.
  • Wow, it’s almost like if you let Turris play hockey, he can actually play hockey!
  • I like how Saros’s pads have his name on them, as if any other goalie in the league is both pocket-sized and wearing aggressively yellow pads.
  • Also, why is the Jets’ arena so poorly-arranged?
  • Eric: “i’m fully prepared for yakov to officially graduate from my wheelhouse. he’s done me proud. leave me, son. you’ve earned honors well beyond my weekly charts.”
  • Willy Daunic and Chris Mason broke down Pekka Rinne’s goal at first intermission and we learned the delightful fact that Rinne was present at Mason’s goal—there’s footage of the two hugging in the celebration. Also, wow, 2006 footage was not good.
  • Believe it or not, Anthony Bitetto is playing some okay defense today.
  • The Preds are leading the Jets 22-11 in shots on goal, and it genuinely feels like it.
  • Jarred Tinordi not covering himself in glory as an NHL player, here.
  • Jets have narrowed the SOG discrepancy to 23-17 and that, too, feels like it.
  • Since when are the Sabres among “the Preds’ hottest rivals”?
  • I do not feel like they’re going to be able to score on Hellebuyck again tonight. Stupid good goalies.
  • Dan Hamhuis also also not distinguishing himself as a NHL player today. We want Allard, we want Davies, etc.
  • I think the referee or linesman just patted Saros on the back after that save.
  • Josi’s point streak came to an end this afternoon, but Saros got his first shutout of the season. I’ll take it.

OTF’s Super Duper Stars of the Game:

  1. Juuse Saros with a great and hopefully confidence-building shutout, even if he didn’t manage to score a goal.
  2. Yakov Trenin with fantastic plays on both sides of the puck.
  3. Kyle Turris, who scored the gamewinner and helped make the fourth line a real threat.