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Fast start helps Jets to fifth straight road win

Laine, Ehlers score as Jets improve to 4-1-0 against divisional opponents

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

NASHVILLE - A fast start is always welcome, but the Winnipeg Jets put extra emphasis on it Tuesday night in Nashville - and it paid off.

Facing a Predators squad that was coming off a 7-2 loss on home ice, Patrik Laine quieted the Bridgestone Arena crowd 18 seconds into the opening period and the Jets never trailed from there, earning a 2-1 victory.

"We came out the right way. We came out fast and hard. We knew that Nashville wanted to do that today," said Nikolaj Ehlers. "That's our game. When we get a start like that it gets us going. It gives us confidence right off the bat and we were able to finish it off. We liked our game."

Video: POSTGAME | Nikolaj Ehlers

The win was Winnipeg's third straight on the road trip and fifth straight on the road overall. 

Ehlers had the other Jets goal - the 100th of his career - to help the Jets improve to 13-8-1.

"I'm very proud of that. But I'm not done," said Ehlers. "I'm going to try and keep it going. It's great and I'm proud of it. We got the two points and that's all that matters."

After Roman Josi mishandled the puck at the Jets blue line, Laine took the puck down the ice, beating Josi before feeding Kyle Connor. Connor flipped a quick saucer return pass to Laine over the stick of Ryan Ellis and Laine made no mistake.

"We wanted to have a good start. We wanted to play the first 10 hard," said Laine. "If we don't score, we still want to play a hard 10. That was a good start. We needed that one. It was a great pass from KC and a pretty easy job to put it in."

Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice

It stayed that way until 3:47 into the second period, when a strong cutback along the right side boards by Jack Roslovic bought the Jets winger some space. He used it to slide a quick pass to Ehlers in the right circle. A quick wrist shot from Ehlers beat Juuse Saros, giving Ehlers 10 goals on the season and the Jets a 2-0 lead.

Ehlers now has goals in three straight games and likes how his line with Roslovic and Blake Wheeler are working together.

"We've started to create some chemistry," Ehlers said. "We've had some really big chances as a line. We haven't been able to bury one altogether yet, but we're creating and we're not giving much up. That's the way we need to play. We've created some chemistry and it's growing."

Video: POSTGAME | Patrik Laine

The set-up from Roslovic gave him assists in back-to-back games on the road trip and was a classic example of the cutback that Roslovic does so well.

"His ability to come out of a turn and then think about being a threat - that's where it all happens," said head coach Paul Maurice. "When he comes out of the turn he doesn't pause and look for the pass. He's a threat. That changes the shape of the defenders. Somebody else covers over on him, so there is the guy on Jack and then there is the next layer that takes a step into his lane. Then he finds them."

Nashville cut into the lead with 1:49 to go in the middle frame when Nick Bonino found some open space on the back door to Connor Hellebuyck's left. He took a pass from Rocco Grimaldi and snuck it by the Jets goaltender to make it 2-1.

But that was the only puck that got by Hellebuyck, finishing the night with 38 saves.

"I thought everyone from top to bottom played a real good game. We stuck together, we grinned hard and we battled," said Hellebuyck, who also appreciated the quick start from his team.

"It helps you relax a bit. It almost turns the tide of the game for me. It's not 'hold us in it,' it's 'let's battle and keep this lead.' I like playing like that."

Video: POSTGAME | Connor Hellebuyck

While the loss extends the Predators winless skid to five games, the Jets are now 10-1-1 in one-goal games.

Maurice said keeping those leads is a skill the team is continuing to learn.

"Some of our best hockey came in the last two minutes tonight in terms of knocking sticks down, getting shot blocks and grinding," said Maurice. "It's good to be in the position we've been. One-goal leads are really important to have obviously for the standings, but learning how to play with that one goal."

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