Jets’ Connor goes off, pushes Predators to the brink

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Few can stop the Winnipeg Jets once they get going.

And so while the Nashville Predators — the NHL’s best team in the regular season and a team with arguably the best defensive corps in all the land — seem to have the tools necessary for cessation, they simply, like many other teams, couldn’t stop the boulder that is the Jets offense once it dislodged from its standstill.

Now, the Jets are on the verge of the Western Conference Final with a 6-2 win on Saturday and will have a chance to close out the series with the backing of the Whiteout in Winnipeg on Monday night.

Saturday’s game will be referred to be Jets fans (and begrudgingly by Predators fans) as the Kyle Connor Show, and for good reason.

Connor paced all rookies in goal-scoring this season but hadn’t found the back of the net in nine playoff games coming into Saturdays’ tilt.

The Michigan product made sure that streak didn’t extend to 10, picking a great time to pot not just his first career playoff goal, but also his second as the Jets found the back of the net four times in the second period.

Winnipeg’s onslaught began with Paul Stastny standing in front of the net and allowing Patrik Laine to wire a wrist shot off him into the back of the net. It was briefly halted by Yannick Weber but resumed shortly thereafter with both of Connor’s goals bookmarking Dustin Byfuglien‘s fourth of the playoffs.

Connor showed he can do more than score, making Ryan Johansen just a pawn in his game with one of the filthier moves of the playoffs.

Pekka Rinne received a mercy pull for the second time in the series after allowing six goals on 26 shots. He can’t take all of the blame — Nashville’s defense on the night was porous at best — but he needs more performances like Game 4 if the Predators are going to force Game 7.

Fellow Vezina candidate Connor Hellebuyck bailed the Jets out in the first period as the Predators pushed for an opener and finished with 38 saves.

Monday night’s Whiteout in Winnipeg is going to be next-level.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Predators’ Fiala notches winner in double overtime to even series with Jets

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Ryan Johansen called Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round between his Nashville Predators and the Winnipeg Jets a must-win.

A little early for the distinction? Perhaps. But the thought of heading back to Winnipeg — and into the Whiteout — down 2-0 had to be a daunting thought.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

In a game defined by the resiliency of both teams, it was the Predators who outlasted the Jets as Kevin Fiala scored on a deke past Connor Hellebuyck on a 2-on-1 rush at 5:45 of double overtime even the best-of-7 series 1-1.

Simply put, it was a massive goal, a massive win and maybe a little redemption after a dominant performance in Game 1 left the Predators wanting in Friday’s 4-1 loss.

The majority of the 25:45 of free hockey that was played was a lesson in how manic the game of hockey can be. Chances, near-misses, desperate saves — all contained in some of the most exciting hockey thus far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The game arrived in overtime after a frantic battle between two determined teams in regulation.

If Game 1 didn’t live up to the hype after a lopsided game one way resulted in an unlikely win in the other direction, Game 2 certainly made up for it.

Mark Scheifele‘s goal with 1:05 remaining in the third period, with Winnipeg’s net vacant, capped it off and ensured the hype train would keep chugging along.

Prior to that, Johansen scored his second goal of the night to give the Predators a 4-3 lead with 14 minutes and change remaining in the game.

His first came two periods earlier, just 27 seconds into the game to give the Preds a quick 1-0 lead. The lead wouldn’t hold and the Jets scored twice in 29 seconds before the period was through, including Scheifele’s first of the game.

Nashville rallied in the second period, scoring twice to take a 3-2 lead into the third period. Brandon Tanev tied the game at 5:11 of the third, only to watch from the bench as the Johansen scored a beauty 34 seconds later to retake the lead, one that would last until Scheifele’s crucial equalizer at 18:55.

Pekka Rinne made 46 saves when it was all said and done, just 48 hours after he was removed from Game 1 following a poor outing.

Game 3 of the series shifts to Winnipeg on Tuesday night


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Wild clinch, Duchene hits 200, Burakovsky’s filthy goal

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Players of the Night:

Devan Dubnyk and Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild: Two goals by Parise and 22 saves by Dubnyk helped the Wild to a 3-0 shutout win against the Edmonton Oilers. The win was huge for the Wild, with both the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche losing. Minnesota is now five points clear of the Avalanche and six clear of the Blues in the race for third place in the Central Division.

William Nylander and Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs: Both Nylander and Matthews recorded three-point nights — each had two goals and an assist — as the Leafs trounced the Buffalo Sabres 5-2.

Matt Duchene and Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators: The Senators lost 6-5 in a goal-fest against the Winnipeg Jets. Like Nylander and Matthews for Toronto, both Senators listed here had two goals and an assist each. Duchene’s two markers brought him to the 200-goal milestone for his career.

Highlights of the Night:

This is unfair:

Even with no fans to witness it, this was a great goal:

Luongo knows:

What could it mean?

The face you make when you snap a 19-game goal-scoring drought:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Maple Leafs 5, Sabres 2

Jets 6, Senators 5

Panthers 3, Hurricanes 2

Capitals 4, Blues 2

Wild 3, Oilers 0

Kings 3, Avalanche 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Luongo, Fleury, Jones notch shutouts, Predators win 10th straight

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Players of the Night: 

Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers: The Cats need a few things to go right to make the playoffs. The man called Lu (or Strombone) posting 31-save shutouts will certainly help their cause though. Luongo was stellar in the win, his 75th career shutout, and the Panthers are two points out of a playoff spot. Fancy that.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights: Fleury turned aside all 28 shots he faced against a porous Detroit Red Wings team in a 4-0 win. Vegas matched the record for most road wins (19) by a team in its inaugural season because of course they did. Honorable mention to Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin, who split the spoils with a pair of goals each.

Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks: 16 saves don’t seem like many to get a shutout, but it’s hard as a goalie to keep your wits about you when you’re facing next to no shots. Jones faced 16 shots in a 2-0 shutout, with only two of those coming in the third period. St. Louis was very bad on Thursday, with Jake Allen standing in the way of a complete blowout. Allen stopped 34 of 35.

The whole team, Nashville Predators: Yes, every single one of them. Because winning is hard in the NHL and yet the Predators recorded their 10th straight win on Thursday in a 4-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks.

Highlights of the Night:

Hischier pass warning:

Nolan Patrick with the no-looker:

Poor Jake Allen:

Defeated:

Quick robbery:

News of the Night: 

Factoids of the Night:

Some Jets stuff, because they have players named Laine and goalies named Hellebuyck:

Uh oh. The Lightning have another player who can produce at will:

Scores:

Panthers 5, Canadiens 0

Lightning 5, Rangers 3

Golden Knights 4, Red Wings 0

Sabres 4, Senators 3 (OT)

Blue Jackets 5, Avalanche 4 (OT)

Jets 3, Devils 2

Bruins 3, Flyers 2

Predators 4, Ducks 2

Hurricanes 3, Blackhawks 2

Oilers 2, Islanders 1 (SO)

Sharks 2, Blues 0

Kings 3, Capitals 1


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Hellebuyck’s shutout; Staal, Granlund combine for eight points; Penguins cruise

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Players of the Night:

Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets: Hellebuyck’s sixth shutout of the season — a 34-save effort in a 4-0 win against the St. Louis Blues — set a new franchise record. He’s now just two wins away from tying the team’s franchise record for wins by a goalie at 32.

Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild: Staal and Granlund basically had their way with the New York Rangers in a 4-1 win. They each scored twice and also assisted twice on each other’s goals. Feasting on the Rangers is pretty easy these days, but it was an impressive night for the duo nonetheless.

William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights: Goals No. 32 and No. 33 tonight, including quite the rip on his second one. Added an assist as well in a 6-3 win for the Golden Knights over the Vancouver Canucks. What a player he’s turned into.

Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins: Kessel has two goals and an assist and Malkin and Guentzel each had a goal and two assists. The Penguins are already scary on offense, and they just added Derick Brassard on Friday. Three-peat, anyone?

Highlights of the Night:

Saucy little number:

Patrik Laine makes it look so easy:

Slick feed game:

Ugly suit night for the Winnipeg Jets:

https://twitter.com/NHLGIFs/status/967262571605778433

Trade of the Day:

The three-team deal that happened, then it didn’t and then happened again

Penguins land Derick Brassard on second try in wild three-team deal.

Own goal of the night:

Troy Stecher got a little unlucky on this one:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Wild 4, Rangers 1

Penguins 6, Hurricanes 1

Jets 4, Blues 0

Blackhawks 3, Sharks 1

Golden Knights 6, Canucks 3


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck