NASHVILLE, TN - The Winnipeg Jets are coming home empty-handed after a season-long road trip came to an end Friday with a fifth straight loss.
Colin Wilson and Ryan Johansen had two goals each, while James Neal added the other in a 5-1 Predators win, dropping the Jets' record 9-12-2 on the year.
Mike Fisher recorded three assists.
Dustin Byfuglien scored the Jets' only goal, while Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves in the loss.
"When you're in the midst of a four-game losing streak you look to your leaders to pull you out of it, and that wasn't the game we needed from us," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said.
Wheeler, along with Mark Scheifele, did not play after a penalty just 34 seconds into the third period.
"It starts with me. I'm the leader of this team and I need to be better when we're going through a tough time like this. The penalty wasn't exactly what we were looking for at the beginning of the third period. … It wasn't good enough."
Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler
With the Jets leading 1-0 after the first period, two quick goals by the home side early in the second got the ball rolling in a lopsided final 40 minutes.
Wilson tied things up at 5:39 as he buried feed from Fisher, who showed great vision through traffic, scooping up a lose puck along the right wall and spotting his linemate lurking at the side of the net.
It snowballed from there.
"We're just going to have to play fairly close to perfect mentally (moving forward)," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "That first goal, we had two guys behind the net. We don't have that margin for error right now. This is a great time for our team to really hang on to the basics and the foundation of the game and work toward that. Simple, fast hockey without trying to do too much. It's a great learning experience."
The Predators took their first lead of the night just 1:08 later, as Ryan Johansen sent a bullet past Hellebuyck on the power play. With Nikolaj Ehlers in the box, Byfuglien fanned on a clearing attempt, turning the puck over to Fisher, who then Johansen for the one-timer at the top of the left circle.
The Jets had a chance on a 2-on-1 moments earlier, but for the second time in the game, they failed to get a shot off.
"Sometimes we need to play uglier, and that's how we're going to get out of this thing - scoring some ugly ones and just working," Josh Morrissey said.
Things got worse for the Jets at 12:56 as Brandon Tanev was assessed a five-minute penalty for boarding Colton Scissons. The Jets were having one of their best penalty kills of the year until a unlucky bounce with just two seconds left in the major gave the Predators a commanding 3-1 lead. James Neal took the shot, and after a series of pinball-like bobbles in tight, the puck somehow found its way past Hellebuyck.
"It was a great penalty kill. The guy chips one and it's just a bad break," Wheeler said. "Those are the breaks that haven't gone our way, but this isn't woe is me, bad breaks anymore. We've lost five in a row. We've got to figure out a way here."
The Preds outshot the Jets 15-9 in a one-sided middle frame.
Video: POSTGAME | Josh Morrissey
Scheifele took a slashing penalty just 34 seconds into the third and the Preds made him pay for it, as Wilson scored his second of the night to make it 4-1 at 2:13.
It was then when the Jets' top two forwards took a seat at the end of the bench.
"Mark and Blake have been carrying this club in so many different ways. I'd run them 15 minutes through two periods, and they were frustrated with their game," Maurice said. "We have other players here that have to understand that it isn't going to be two or three guys getting it done every night. They needed to have a piece of being ready and sometimes they need to get on the ice and feel that responsibility."
Nashville added to its lead at 8:15 as Johansen fired a shot past Hellebuyck to rub salt into wound of the already banged-up Jets.
Byfuglien opened the scoring for the Jets at 14:53 of the first period as he took a shot from the right point that had eyes after hitting a body en route. The puck popped high in the air, arching over the traffic in front before landing behind the fallen Pekka Rinne, who was taken out by a teammate moments earlier.
Video: WPG@NSH: Byfuglien's long-range shot finds the net
The big man was involved at both ends, dishing out four hits in 8:51 of ice time, leading all skaters in both categories. Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson was on the receiving end of No. 33's brute more than once in the opening frame, twice picking himself up off the ice after being dumped heavily in the offensive zone.
Shots on goal favoured the Jets 9-8 after one period of play.
These two teams will hook up once again on Sunday at MTS Centre when the Jets begin a three-game home stand.
"The good news is we have a lot of spirit in our room," Wheeler said. "We have a great locker room, really close locker room and you've seen no quit in us so far this year. … I'm optimistic that our group can rebound here. It's just that when things start snowballing, it's tough to reverse course. We have our game in neutral right now and we've got to kick it into overdrive."
LATE HITS: Kyle Connor was back in the lineup after missing the past five games with an upper-body injury… Connor played on a line with Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn. Alexander Burmistrov was the odd-man out, missing his first game of the season.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com