Jets can’t dig out of big first period hole in 5-2 loss in Nashville

The Winnipeg Jets fell behind early and could not recover in a 5-2 loss in Nashville Thursday night.

The Predators opened the scoring less than five minutes into the first when a shot from the point was tipped by Eeli Tolvanen. It careened off the post and bounced right back to Tolvanen as he banged it past Connor Hellebuyck, who had no clue where the puck was.

Winnipeg decided to challenge the goal, arguing that the initial tip was done with a high stick. Review confirmed that the goal was good, giving Nashville a power play that they did not score on.

But just shy of the 12 minute mark the Preds would double their lead. A shot off the stick of Mikael Granlund redirected off Neal Pionk and past Hellebuyck, giving Nashville a 2-0 advantage.

Things got even worse for the Jets with 2:25 to go when a turnover sent the Preds in on an odd-man rush. Ryan Johansen’s wrist shot squeaked through Hellebuyck, a goal he’d like to have back, putting Nashville up by three goals after 20 minutes.

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Winnipeg was given a golden opportunity to get back into the game in the second when Nashville took multiple high-sticking penalties.

On a 5-on-3, Pierre-Luc Dubois tried sending a pass through the crease that banked in off a Predators defender to put the Jets on the board.

Not long after that, Winnipeg got another power play but could not cash in, and whatever momentum was generated by the power plays vanished when Luke Kunin made it 4-1 for the Preds. A shot from the point deflected off Kunin’s stick before grazing the shin pads of both him and Josh Morrissey, changing directions before going past Hellebuyck.

The third period got off to a dream start for the Jets when Mark Scheifele knocked home a rebound past Juuse Saros just 25 seconds in.

Winnipeg continued pouring the pressure on Saros all period, outshooting the Preds 15-4 in the third but were unable to crack the code. The officials also let the two teams play in the final 20, calling no penalties after 12 minor infractions were whistled in the opening two periods.

Tanner Jeannot sealed the deal with an empty netter with 21 seconds remaining.

It was not a banner night for Hellebuyck, who stopped 18 shots in the loss. Saros was excellent, making 36 saves in the win.

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As far as special teams are concerned, the Jets killed off all three penalties they took but went 1-for-5 on the power play.

Winnipeg will now prepare for a weekend back-to-back, in Boston Saturday afternoon and Pittsburgh on Sunday.

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