The Nashville Predators were without a couple of important players for their game in Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon, including leading goal scorer James Neal and one of their top defenseman, Ryan Ellis.
In the end, they still played a pretty good game and nearly doubled the Jets up on the shot chart while controlling the play for most of the game.
It still wasn’t enough to get two points in what would be a 3-0 loss.
The reason for the loss: Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck turned in one of the best performances of his young career by stopping all 42 shots the Predators put on him, including 20 in the third period alone.
Don’t let the final score fool you into thinking the game really wasn’t that close. It was only a 1-0 game until the final 50 seconds when the Predators pulled goalie Juuse Saros for the extra attacker, resulting in the Jets adding a pair of empty net goals.
For Hellebuyck, the 42 saves are the second most in his career after a 43-save performance a year ago (also a win against Nashville). His performance on Sunday came at the perfect time for both him and the Jets.
It snapped what had been a five-game losing streak for the Jets (with Hellebuyck taking the loss in four of them) where they had given up 20 goals.
Their offense is still struggling in a big way, and if you take away the two empty net goals on Sunday the Jets have managed just seven goals against a goalie over their past six games. But they needed to find a way to get a win and on Sunday Hellebuyck pretty much did it on his own.
Drew Stafford‘s goal, his first of the season, late in the second period proved to be the game winning goal.