The Winnipeg Jets’ domination of the Central Division continued Thursday night as they knocked off Nashville 2-1 in overtime.
After back-to-back home losses, Kyle Connor scored in the extra frame to avoid their first three-game losing streak, while improving to 7-1 in overtime this season.
The Jets outshot the Predators 41-26 to salvage the three-game homestand, handing the Preds their fifth straight loss.
“We battled hard tonight,” said forward Adam Lowry. “I felt like we were the better team for the most part, and to get rewarded in overtime, and kinda end that two-game skid, it does well for our confidence as well.”
“We spent a lot of time in their zone,” said head coach Rick Bowness. “I think, again, their goalie made some big saves. So, that was a better effort all the way around. We didn’t give up much at all.
“We hit four goal posts. We had tonnes of opportunities. It was one of those nights you just got to stay in the fight and hopefully one finally goes in for you.”
Dylan DeMelo scored the only other goal for the Jets for his first tally in 87 games as he got to hear his goal song for the first time this season.
“I think they waited a little too long to play it,” said DeMelo. “I would have liked to hear a little bit more of it to be honest.
“Happy to contribute where I can and happy to get that opportunity 4-on-4 and yeah, you got to get to the net front I guess. That’s where all the goals are scored.”
After a cautious start the Jets grabbed the momentum late in the first period after a thunderous check. Defenceman Nate Schmidt left the game following a high hit by Tanner Jeannot. Immediately after they dropped the puck Adam Lowry fought Jeannot. And that seemed to give the Jets the kickstart they needed.
“It’s incredible leadership by Adam,” Bowness said. “I love what he did. You have to do that, especially in our rink. He’s a great teammate, and like we always say, they take a run at one of us, they take a run at all of us. And we’re all going to respond.”
“I don’t necessarily think it’s a dirty hit or anything like that,” said Lowry. “But anytime you see a teammate go down on a hard check, I’ll be honest I’m probably trying to make that same check if roles are reversed. You kinda want to defend your teammate. You kinda want settle things down and get the focus back on playing.”
Schmidt was placed in concussion protocol and did not return to the game.
“At this point I don’t have an update,” said Bowness.
Connor recorded a season-high 11 shots on goal in the win.
The game opened with a remarkable 7:55 of play without a whistle, though neither side had a legitimate scoring chance.
Just over a minute later, Nashville scored on their first shot of the game. Filip Forsberg wired one past Connor Hellebuyck to give the visitors the lead at 9:04.
But the Jets would draw level thanks to an unlikely source.
After Pierre-Luc Dubois and Roman Josi took roughing penalties to put the teams at 4-on-4, the Jets controlled the puck in Nashville’s end. Connor hit the post but moments later circled the zone and sent a soft pass towards the net, landing right on the stick of DeMelo who was parked in front of the goal.
The defencemen whacked the loose puck into the net for his first goal in 13 months, dating back to his overtime winner against the LA Kings Nov. 13, 2021. It was also just his ninth career goal in his 422nd regular season game.
Late in the period, Schmidt was felled by a hit from Jeannot. He stayed down on the ice for over a minute before he skated to the bench, keeled over in pain and would not return.
On the ensuing faceoff, Jeannot and Adam Lowry dropped the gloves as the Winnipeg faithful cheered heartily.
The Jets came out gunning for the lead in the second, pouring all kinds of shots on Juuse Saros but were unable to beat the Nashville goalie despite a pair of power plays in the period.
Nashville would get their first chance with the man advantage late in the frame when Jansen Harkins clipped Forsberg with a high stick, cutting him on the nose.
But the Preds only managed two shots on goal in almost four minutes before Forsberg took a holding penalty to kill the power play.
Winnipeg held a 29-14 edge in shots on goal heading to the third period, where they continued to put pressure on the Preds as they tried to avoid their first three-game losing skid of the season.
The Jets got a power play just over five minutes into the third and had the puck in the Nashville end for most of it but could not beat Saros.
Not long after the power play ended, Nashville got one of their own but they too could not take advantage.
The game continued on deep into the third without either team gaining an edge, including a entertaining stretch of 5:24 without a whistle but the teams would need more than 60 minutes to determine a winner.
Josh Morrissey was just inches away from his third OT winner of the season, hitting the crossbar on a breakaway at the end of a long shift.
But just moments later, Connor came off the bench, got the puck from Lowry and fired a shot that squeezed through Saros and trickled over the goal line for his second overtime winner of the season.
With the win, the Jets improve to 11-2 against the Central, 7-1 in games that required overtime, and 8-2 following a loss with six of those wins coming in OT.
Hellebuyck made 25 saves in the win while Saros was much busier, turning aside 39 shots in defeat.
The Jets will now hit the road for a pair of games this weekend, in Vancouver Saturday night and in Seattle on Sunday.
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