The Winnipeg Jets did not get the result they were looking for on Sunday evening in Nashville. Heading into game two of the Western Conference Semifinals up one-game-to-zero over the hometown Predators,
the Jets fought back after falling behind in the third period, only to eventually lose the game 5-4 in double overtime.
Quickly finding themselves behind the eight ball just 27 seconds into Sunday's contest, Winnipeg struck back with two goals less than half-a-minute apart with roughly seven minutes to play in the first period.
With both Tyler Myers and Victor Arvidsson in the box, the Jets capitalized on the extra ice, as Mark Scheifele walked the offensive zone blueline before dishing the puck to Dustin Byfuglien. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound defenceman made no mistake tucking the puck past Pekka Rinne five-hole, knotting the game up at ones.
Scheifele then scored his seventh of the postseason just 29 seconds after Byfuglien's strike. Picking up loose puck following a missed Patrik Laine shot, trade deadline acquisition Paul Stastny provided Scheifele with a pass in the slot. The Jets' leading playoff goal scorer easily put it past Rinne.
A little over five minutes into the second, with Bryan Little in the box for tripping, Nashville's P.K. Subban wired a slap shot past Connor Hellebuyck tying the game once again. With a 1:20 left in the frame, Arvidsson made up for his earlier penalty and ripped a hard slap shot past Hellebuyck, giving the Predators their second lead of the game.
Although outshooting their opponent, Winnipeg entered the third period down 3-2. However, it only took the Jets roughly five minutes to strike in the third. Big time playoff performer Brandon Tanev got the Jets' energy going with a strong effort in out-waiting Rinne, before putting the puck around the Vezina Trophy finalist, evening up the game once again.
All momentum gained by Winnipeg on the Tanev goal was lost shortly after, as Nashville's Ryan Johansen outworked Toby Enstrom on an incredible individual effort, before going bar-down past Hellebuyck - restoring the Preds' lead, once again.
With the Jets' net empty and the extra attacker on the ice with a minute-and-a-half to go, Scheifele hammered a shot squarely off the post, before making up for that by scoring the game-tying-goal, with 1:05 to go in regulation. Laine and Byfuglien drew the assists on Scheifele's eighth of the postseason.
Not only did that goal tie the game and ensure overtime, but it also pushed Scheifele atop the leaderboard in the individual playoff goal scoring race. His eight goals is more than any other player in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The first overtime period could have ended upon multiple occasions. Various sloppy plays, defensively, led to a series of near-misses by Johansen, Arvidsson and Mike Fisher. With some luck, Hellebuyck kept the disc out of the net for the first period of overtime.
But with their fourth line on the ice in a mis-matched shift in the second overtime period, Winnipeg's luck ran out as a bad combined pinch by Enstrom and Andrew Copp led to a Nashville two-on-one. Craig Smith found Kevin Fiala, who went backhand, cross-crease on Hellebuyck, before tucking it past the sprawling netminder - much to the delight of the hometown crowd gathered at Bridgestone Arena.
Fiala's second career playoff overtime winner came 5:37 into the second overtime period, or 85:37 into the game. Hellebuyck stopped 36 of Nashville's 41 shots, while Rinne pushed aside 46 of Winnipeg 50.
The best-of-seven series now shifts to Winnipeg, where the Jets will look to continue with their 12-game home winning streak (dating back to March of the regular season) with Tuesday and Thursday contests. Game five will go from Nashville Saturday.
The Jets fly home to Winnipeg Sunday night and will hold an optional skate early Monday afternoon. Game three will go from Bell MTS Place at 7:00 P.M. Tuesday. The Winnipeg Whiteout street party will open its gates at 5:00 P.M. central time. Tuesday's game can be seen live on CBC.
By Carter Brooks
Photo by James Carey Lauder