Defensive cage match ends with Preds blanking Jets

by Jackson Walsh

The Nashville Predators (3-1-0, 6 pts) stalled out in their home opener, and desperately needed a jolt of energy to get back on track and continue their trademark winning ways in Smashville. Thursday night was just that. Though not without it’s grating frustrations, the Predators ultimately prevailed with gritty defense and some creative plays to gain the better end of a heated defensive duel, 3-0, over the Winnipeg Jets (2-2-0, 4 pts).

The first period was, for the most part, equivalent to watching a sequel to a great movie and having essentially the same plot. Lots of loose pucks, giveaways, breakaways, and stalwart performances by Pekka Rinne and Connor Hellebuyck on both ends of the ice.

If there is a stain on this beautifully hand woven victory, it is the abundant failure on the power play. The Jets filled the box consistently, even at one point two at a time forcing two five on three opportunities, still no goals. The boys in gold went a staggering 0 for 9 with a man advantage, a total of 0 for 15 through the first four contests. Definitely a note for improvement.

The Predators would eventually tear down the Hellebuyck wall starting with a beautiful steal and breakaway goal from Mr. Highlight Reel himself Ryan Hartman backhanding it past the Jets tender to give the Predators a 1-0 lead 3:02 into the second period.

Between the penalties, the brawls, the violence, the hits, and the terrific saves, Hartman’s goal would seem to be the difference maker. Thankfully, the Predators would keep building shots and pressure and would break open again.

Hartman intercepted yet another puck from Big Bad Dustin Byfuglien in the defensive zone and charged down the ice to set up a play in front of the net in which captain Roman Josi blistered home a shot from Hartzy and Ryan Ellis at 7:58 to improve the score to 2-0, at this stage in the game wearing down the Winnipeg press on both ends of the ice.

The final nail in the coffin came at 14:42 in the final period off a loose puck corralled by Viktor Arvidsson who, with a give and go to Ryan Johansen in front of the net, earned an assist and Joey with his first goal, wrapping up a triumphant 3-0 rebound win at home.

Man, did the Preds need this win. Lots of kinks worked out, they were very focused on defense throughout and Winnipeg didn’t start stacking on too many shots on goal until the final third of the contest, only getting 29 SOG all game. And of course, Pekka was dominant in perfect defending Vezina trophy winner form.

That power play though, yikes. Had they learned to score in that situation, it would have looked like a football game with all the fighting and rough housing the Jets got penalized for. And I’ll take only 4 minutes in the sin bin tonight for us, a lot more disciplined.

Next up is rolling out the red carpet for Barry Trotz and Round 2 with the Islanders. Be prepared for another big contest on home ice.

Until then, good night, and long live the Thrashers.

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