A four-goal second period from the Winnipeg Jets helped lead them to a 6-2 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 5 on Saturday night. The result gives the Jets a 3-2 series lead and sees the Preds facing elimination for the first time in these playoffs.
Nashville’s start was nearly perfect, but they weren’t able to get the game’s first goal, and four strikes from the Jets in the second preceded two more in the third to ultimately hand the Preds their third loss of the series.
It’s plain and simple now – Nashville has to win two games to keep their season alive, and it starts on Monday night.
“This group’s been built for a game like the one that’s coming up,” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “I’ve got a tremendous amount of confidence. I believe in them. I know that they believe in each other. Winnipeg’s a good team. We’re going to have to go in there, we’re going to have to play well and we’re going to have to win a hockey game. The guys understand everything. All the information is on the table. Now we just have to go up there and do it.”
“Can we be better? Of course,” Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said. “We have to be a lot better. It just seemed like every time we made a mistake, it ended up in the back of our net. Fact of the matter is, we had to go to Winnipeg anyway, so we are going to go there and win a game and come back here. It’s that simple.”
Winnipeg got the game’s first goal at 7:44 of the second when a Patrik Laine shot deflected off Paul Stastny and past Pekka Rinne.
The Predators tied it up less than four minutes later when defenseman Yannick Weber recorded his first goal of the postseason by picking the top corner on goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, but the Jets roared back for three goals in the next six minutes to take a 4-1 lead.
Ryan Johansen got one back before the six-goal middle frame was out, when he tallied a shorthanded marker, but Winnipeg got two more before the third period was seven minutes old. The sixth tally spelled the end of Rinne’s night with Juuse Saros making six saves in relief.
“There’s no panic,” Predators Captain Roman Josi said. “We know what we have to do. There’s no panic in the room. We’re a pretty confident group, but like I said before, they got a couple bounces and a couple goals, but we didn’t panic. I thought we tried to stick to our game plan.”
Now there’s nothing left to do but head north once more, their final trip to Manitoba, regardless of what happens. And the Predators have every intention of playing hockey back in Nashville on Thursday night.
“We had to go to Winnipeg anyway,” Laviolette said. “The plane is already booked, and we’re ready to go. There’s no group that I’d rather be with to win one hockey game than this group.”
“For us, we are going to wake up in the morning, that page is going to be turned, we are going to go to Winnipeg and we are going to win a game, and we are going to come back here,” Subban said. “It’s that simple.”
Kevin Fiala went back into the Predators lineup in Game 5, replacing Scott Hartnell who skated in Game 4. Fiala registered four shots in 11:56 of ice time.
Yannick Weber’s goal was his fourth-career postseason goal and his first with the Preds.
Game 6 between the Predators and Jets is set for an 8:30 p.m. CT start on Monday night in Winnipeg. If necessary, the Preds would then host their first Game 7 in club history on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena.
Pete Weber’s Postgame Report