Nashville held leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-3, but after Blake Wheeler’s 20th forced an overtime that saw both teams hit iron, Mark Scheifele scored the lone goal in the shootout to decide the game. The single point added to the Predators’ total puts them at 107 on the season, five points up on the Jets with five games to play.
The Preds finished their weekend set with Minnesota and Winnipeg at 0-1-1, but were much more pleased with their performance in the second half of the back-to-back games.
“I thought the guys played hard, especially in the situation playing the night before,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We battled hard in the game against a really good team and lost in breakaways.”
“[Tonight’s effort was] much better,” Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “The last two games, I think we just weren’t ourselves. We didn’t look like anything we’ve been this whole year and tonight, on a back-to-back versus arguably one of the best teams in the League, to put that effort out and get a point out of it – it’s not [the result] we wanted – but it was much better by everyone involved. Much better effort.”
Nashville took a 1-0 lead midway through the first when Roman Josi blasted home a shot past Connor Hellebuyck, and then with 0.2 ticks to play in the opening frame, Kyle Turris converted on the power play to give the Preds a 2-0 advantage after 20 minutes.
It was all Winnipeg as the second period began, and if it weren’t for the play of Preds goaltender Juuse Saros, the damage could have been worse, with the Jets ultimately outshooting the Preds 25-8 in the middle frame.
After Kyle Connor got the Jets on the board, Ellis got Nashville’s two-goal lead back shortly thereafter. The Jets kept coming, however, and Dustin Byfuglien and Bryan Little combined to tie the game at 3-3. It was Viktor Arvidsson who tallied the final marker of the second, jamming a loose puck in the crease over the line for his team-leading 28th and a 4-3 lead.
It took Wheeler just 59 seconds into the third period to even the score once more, and after 19 more minutes of regulation – and both teams hitting the post in overtime – Scheifele scored the only goal in the shootout to put Winnipeg on top.
The two clubs combined for 41 goals though five games to close out the season series, a pure show of force between a pair that have demonstrated time and time again why they’re the ones battling for the Central Division crown.
And like any good duel, it appears it may take until the final weekend to determine who wins the division – and the West.
“It’s two of the top teams in the League right now,” Ellis said. “They’re a high-flying team, we think we’re a high flying team too, and whatever it is, one team seems to score and the other team seems to come right back.
“But the effort is better. It’s not about X’s and O’s so much, it’s about being on the puck first, hitting guys first and initiating stuff like that. Tonight, on a back-to-back versus that team, it was a good game for both sides.”
The Predators announced the following updates regarding their personnel prior to Sunday’s game. Defenseman Yannick Weber, who left Saturday’s game in Minnesota and did not return, was scratched on Sunday due to maintenance. Forward Austin Watson, who also left the game on Saturday, suffered an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated back in Nashville. In addition, defenseman Alexei Emelin is now listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
The Predators now return to Nashville for a three-game home stand, beginning Tuesday against Minnesota. They then host San Jose and Buffalo to round out the week before embarking on their final road trip of the regular season.