Nashville Predators 2, Winnipeg Jets 5: Lack of discipline costs Preds again

The Preds take the most minor penalties per game of any team in the league, it’s not close, and they’re paying for it.

The Nashville Predators returned home to face the Winnipeg Jets tonight in a game that had much higher stakes for the visiting team.

In spite of that, the Preds got off to a strong start, putting on some early pressure. Mikael Granlund scored less than four minutes into the game, thanks to a gorgeous assist from Filip Forsberg, and shortly after that Ryan Johansen drew a holding penalty. After Juuse Saros had to come up with a big save, Matt Duchene gave the Preds the early 2-0 lead on that power play.

After that, however, things began to deteriorate.

Johansen took an interference penalty just three seconds into another Preds power play, and Mark Scheifele scored in the ensuing 4v4. After the teams returned to five a side (temporarily), Tanner Jeannot followed that up by boarding Ville Heinola—never great, and taking Jeannot off the penalty kill isn’t really what the Preds want either.

When Jeannot was released, Adam Lowry decided to fight him. Both players sat for five minutes, and while the Preds got another power play towards the end of the period, courtesy of a high-stick against Mark Borowiecki, they were unable to capitalize on it to re-extend their lead.

Once the second period started, it was truly all downhill for the Preds. Roman Josi took an early tripping penalty, about five minutes into the period. After that, Kristian Reichel collided with Nick Cousins, who needed help to get to the locker room after the hit. While Cousins returned before long, it looked bad enough that Cousins’s linemate Luke Kunin decided to exact a little vigilante justice, picking up the instigator minor and the ten-minute misconduct to go along with the fighting majors that he and Reichel acquired.

The Jets threatened repeatedly during their power play—building off the momentum they never really lost between Preds penalties—before Kyle Connor finally put the puck in, tying the game 2-2. Play see-sawed dully back and forth for most of the rest of the second period,  until with less than two minutes to go Yakov Trenin was called for interference and the Preds went back to the penalty kill.

They did manage to kill that one off, but not to get the momentum back, as the Jets—despite playing yesterday—came out for the third with a vengeance. While the Preds were able to limit the Jets’ actual chances, they were still spending way more time than they’d like in their own end.

The fans did the wave, and Borowiecki responded by elbowing Evgeny Svechnikov in the head. He was assessed a major penalty, and upon review the refs upheld that call; Borowiecki was ejected, and the Preds faced five minutes shorthanded. First Blake Wheeler and then Pierre-Luc Dubois scored on that power play, before Scheifele took a hooking penalty and canceled all but three seconds of the rest of it out.

The Preds were unable to score during the 4v4, and Wheeler put the nail in the coffin with an empty-net goal at 16:46 of the third. While the Preds rallied a little after that, it was nowhere near enough.

My final thought for the evening: the Jets scored their first four goals while a Preds skater was serving a penalty, their fifth into an empty net, and the Preds didn’t manage to sustain any real offense once the parade to the box began. It wasn’t Saros’s best night—though with the 42 shots he faced he still had an above-.900 sv%—but the skaters have got to stop asking this of him.