by Taylor Parks
This time of year, every game is important for a team looking to make the playoffs, but tonight was a little different. The Preds and Winnipeg Jets faced off for the top of the Central Division with home ice and Stanley Cup Playoff positioning in mind.
Both teams bolstered their lineups at the trade deadline with the Preds adding Ryan Hartman and the Jets adding veteran Paul Stastny. Both teams also have Vezina trophy caliber players in Pekka Rinne and Connor Hellebuyck in between the pipes. No matter how you looked at it, this was going to be a good one.
The first period was pretty even throughout. Both teams had high caliber scoring chances and both teams played with speed. The best forward on the ice was undoubtedly newly acquired Ryan Hartman who single handedly created offense during his shifts, and nearly set up Austin Watson for a tap-in goal. Winnipeg’s best stat in the first period: blocked shots, with a first period total of 16. Despite both sides best chances, both teams remained scoreless after one period of play.
The second period, on the other hand, was an absolutely barn burner. The Jets would get going quickly in the first period as Matt Hendricks (5) blew a wrist shot right by Pekka Rinne after Hartman was unable to clear the puck from the zone. The Predators would respond off of a fantastic play by Roman Josi. Josi received the puck at the blueline, sidestepped a defender, took a shot, and Craig Smith buried the rebound to tie the game at 1, At 12:41 Mark Scheifele would tally for the Jets to go up 2-1 seconds after leaving the penalty box. Scheifele would score again on the powerplay just 2 minutes later to give the Jets a 3-1 lead. Not to be outdone, Kyle Turris would get the Predators within one goal off a rebound created by Viktor Arvidsson. The Predators would continue to fight back as Mattias Ekholm would score on the power play to tie the game at 3 with under 3 minutes to go. Just seconds later, the Jets would tally back as Ehlers would snipe far side on Pekka Rinne to go up 4-3, and that’s how the period would end. Exhale.
The 3rd period began with a feeling out process, but the Jets would ultimately extend their lead to two goals off a goal by Paul Stastny at the midway point of the period. Once again, the Predators would battle back and Craig Smith would score his second of the game just 55 seconds later to bring the game to 5-4 with nine minutes to play. At 13:57, the JOFA line appeared and tied the game off of a great shot by Ryan Johansen. The Predators would not be done, as the new guy Ryan Hartman becomes the hero as he scores with one minute to go in the game to lead 6-5. Pekka Rinne would make a huge save in the dying seconds of the game as the Predators prevail to win the contest 6-5.
Things We Learned
Both of these teams like to “do that hockey”
I know it’s February, but I want Santa to make these teams play again in May. These two teams are on a different level than 90% of the NHL. Can you imagine a seven game series? I don’t think my heart could take it.
Ryan Hartman Debuts
Ryan Hartman has had a crazy 48 hours. From being a Blackhawk (which is bad enough) to being traded to the Predators, traveling to Winnipeg, to playing in a huge divisional match up, to getting the game winning goal with one minute to go.
Roman Josi Shows Why He is the Captain of the Team
5 assists. 5 assists. How absolutely incredible this game was, and what a performance by the captain. He deserves that C on his chest.
This Was an Absolute Crazy, Gritty, Prideful Game.
From the opening puck drop, this was an absolutely incredible game. The Predators (39-14-9, 87 points) now have a 4 point lead over the Jets (37-17-9, 83 points) and they have at least one game in hand over every Central Division team other than the Colorado Avalanche. Next up is the Oilers (27-31-4, 58 points) in Edmonton on Thursday.
Photo Credit: shattered-lens-photography:(tumblr)