Nashville, particularly their top keeper Pekka Rinne, have slumped hard following their 104 point playoff 2014-15 season. Since the start of November, the Predators have only won back-to-back games on two occasions – they currently reside outside of the Wild Card playoff spots.
Coming into Thursday night’s game against Winnipeg, the Jets were 2-1 up on the season series and had already defeated Nashville twice in January.
Trip to the MTS Centre
The Preds travelled to Winnipeg following a 4-1 loss to Chicago, in Tennessee. The Jets had also just lost, in the first of their six-game home stand.
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The game started with a “here we go again” sigh from Nashville fans as rookie Nikolaj Ehlers broke away and beat Rinne glove side.
Nashville came back fighting. They began to rain shots down on Jets keeper Connor Hellebuyck but were denied every time by the incredible rookie.
Then, in response to a Mark Stuart’s big hit on Nashville’s Mike Fisher, Cody Bass dropped the gloves to take on the Winnipeg defensemen.
During Bass’ subsequent five minute major, Nashville’s new star forward Ryan Johansen equalised – flicking the puck in from behind the net.
The Preds stayed firm in the second, coming out determined to stop the Jets from scoring. Just five minutes in, Craig Smith found the net as he shot the rubber over Hellebuyck’s shoulder.
However, it was, in fact, Pekka Rinne who kept his team in the game. During the second frame, the Finnish netminder stopped 11 shots, whilst his team-mates could only challenge the Jets keeper with five shots.
Winnipeg kept up the pressure but James Neal scored out of the faceoff – with the puck bouncing off of the post and then the tender’s back – and Jarnkrok finished it off with an empty-netter. Rinne also pulled out a further seven saves to help Nashville win the contest 4-1.
Can Rinne keep it up?
Pekka Rinne was awarded the first star of the game for his 26 saves on 27 shots, despite Ryan Johansen scoring and assisting in the game. He didn’t have to pull out any particularly stellar stops, but his near-impeccable keeping kept his team on for a much-needed win.
Rinne recorded his highest save count since he last won a game – 27/28 at Carolina on January 3. Along with the first time that he’s conceded less than three goals since the Carolina win.
There is every chance that this could just be a blip in form for Rinne – as he lost five consecutive games following the 2-1 win in Carolina – however, star forward Ryan Johansen seems to be integrating well with his new club. His goals should ease the pressure on Pekka Rinne.