The Winnipeg Jets will play in the conference finals for the first time in franchise history after defeating the Nashville Predators 5-1 in Game 7 Thursday night.
Winnipeg now moves on to face the Vegas Golden Knights for the right to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. Game 1 is Saturday night (7 p.m. ET, NBC) in Winnipeg.
The downfall of the Presidents’ Trophy winning Predators in Game 7 started in the first period when the Jets scored twice in a 126-second span to grab a 2-0 lead to chase Pekka Rinne. It was the third time in the series that head coach Peter Laviolette pulled Rinne.
Winnipeg’s goals weren’t great ones for Rinne to give up. Tyler Myers scored from a bad angle and Paul Stastny put home a rebound in-tight to send the Predators’ starter to the bench in favor of Juuse Saros. Stastny, who was acquired from St. Louis before the NHL trade deadline, now has four goals and eight points in four career Game 7s,
P.K. Subban would cut the lead to 2-1 minutes later, but the Jets were relentless in winning the possession game in the second period and putting pressure on Saros. Their efforts would pay off when Mark Scheifele put home his 10th of the playoffs following a great pass from captain Blake Wheeler. Scheifele scored all seven of his goals in the series on the road.
While numerous leads weren’t safe in the series, the Jets withstood a third-period surge by the Predators and held on for the win. Nashville peppered Connor Hellebuyck with 21 third-period shots, but couldn’t beat him. The Jets netminder would finish with 36 saves.
Home ice was no friend of the Predators in the second round as the Jets won three of the four games held at Bridgestone Arena and outscored Nashville 19-9. Nashville’s only home victory came following double overtime in Game 2.