Neal’s power-play goal in OT gives Predators win over Jets
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) After his Finnish countryman scored on him once, Pekka Rinne was not going to let it happen again in overtime.
Rinne made a big save against Patrik Laine before James Neal scored 2:11 into the extra period to give the Nashville Predators a 5-4 victory over the slumping Winnipeg Jets on Monday night.
With the Predators on a power play, Neal made a head fake at the right faceoff dot and drifted toward the low slot before firing a wrist shot by Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck to the far side.
Neal’s goal was his 20th of the season. He has scored in consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 22-24.
”Of course when you score your confidence is going to rise,” Neal said. ”When I wasn’t getting the chances, the shots or the looks, that’s when you have to go back and look at your game, and keep it simple. When you get the looks, you get the confidence and you know you’re going to score, just a matter of time. They do come in bunches and when you’re feeling it, you’re kind of in the zone and I felt good tonight.”
Just 12 seconds before Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien was whistled for hooking at 1:37 to set up Nashville’s game-winner, Rinne denied Laine on a breakaway from just outside the crease after Laine stickhandled through all three Predators skaters on the ice.
”It came kind of quickly, so I didn’t do anything fancy and just tried to find a hole,” Laine said. ”I was too close to the goalie and obviously, he’s one of the best goalies in the league, so he knew what I was going to do and he got it.”
Rinne finished with 30 saves.
”He had all the momentum after dangling those guys,” Rinne said. ”He’s an impressive young player. I’m very happy for him, especially since he’s a Finn. When he came down, I think at that point you just wait for his move. This time I was able to make the save. He got one by me in the second period, so I wasn’t happy about that.”
Austin Watson, Mike Fisher, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen also scored for Nashville in its second consecutive win.
Blake Wheeler, Byfuglien, Laine and Joel Armia scored for Winnipeg, which has lost four straight. Hellebuyck made 37 saves.
”It’s difficult to get excited,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. ”We can score some goals and we know that. We had a difficult time keeping them out of our net. I think we started right and had a good pace to our game. I didn’t like the number of times we didn’t get pucks in the third period. It took our offensive game away a little bit. That’s about it.”
Wheeler scored the game’s first goal at 3:40 of the opening period.
On a Jets power play, Mark Scheifele had the puck above the left circle and found Wheeler at the center of the blue line, where he beat Rinne with a slap shot through traffic.
Byfuglien made it 2-0 at 12:11.
Nikolaj Ehlers carried the puck around the Nashville net and found Byfuglien just outside the crease on the right side for a one-timer
Watson scored 23 seconds later.
Anthony Bitetto started the puck up ice and found Watson in the neutral zone. He carried the puck into the Winnipeg zone before a toe-drag move at the right faceoff dot set up his wrist shot high to the stick side of Hellebuyck.
Fisher tied it at 2 with 10.6 seconds remaining in the first on a backhand from the low slot off a nice pass from Craig Smith.
Forsberg made it 3-2 only 19 seconds into the second.
Johansen carried the puck into the Winnipeg zone on the right side on a 2-on-1 with Forsberg. Johansen’s pass was behind Forsberg, but the Swede was able to corral it and beat Hellebuyck with a wrist shot to the stick side.
The Jets regained the lead when Laine scored his 33rd of the season at 3:38 of the second and Armia followed at 8:39.
Johansen tied it 4-all at 4:23 of the third.
From the high slot, Forsberg found Johansen on the right side, where he was able to lift a shot from a tough angle over Hellebuyck, and the puck just crossed the goal line.
”In the second period we just fell apart, lost our swagger defensively and didn’t play a very good period,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. ”We addressed a few things after the second period and I thought we were real good in the third.”
NOTES: With a goal and an assist, Johansen has 18 points in 13 career games against the Jets. … Nashville D Roman Josi has four assists in his last three games. … The Jets have allowed at least one power-play goal in each of their last three games.
Jets: At the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.
Predators: At the Washington Capitals on Thursday.