WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets closed out a five-game home stand with a 4-2 loss to Nashville Predators, extending their franchise-record point streak to 13 straight games.
Craig Smith scored two goals, including the insurance marker with just 4:29 to play, while Pekka Rinne made 21 saves.
Drew Stafford got the Jets on the board first with a greasy one, snapping a 12-game goalless drought at 7:28. The normally sure-handed Rinne bobbled a 45-foot point shot from Dustin Byfuglien, allowing Stafford to pounce and casually tuck it home from just a few feet out, putting the Jets up 1-0.
Looking for more late in the period, Stafford rifled a shot off the crossbar as Rinne scrambled across to plug the open side.
“Two goals off skates, and our power play not getting the job done,” Stafford said when asked what the difference was tonight. “I had quite a few chances; could have had a couple tonight, but they didn’t go in.”
Nashville scored twice in 11 seconds late in the first to take a 2-1 lead into the intermission.
First, Smith buried a backdoor feed from Viktor Arvidsson to tie things up at 19:19. Then, after winning the draw and carrying the puck wide on the far side, Colton Sissons’ backhand pass across the goalmouth deflected in off Ben Chiarot, giving the Predators their first lead with 29.9 seconds left in the opening period.
Shots on goal favoured the Jets 8-6 after one period of play. Despite getting beat twice in the final minute, Ondrej Pavelec had himself a period, with the highlight coming around the 10-minute mark when he stoned Arvidsson on a clear-cut break.
“In relation to how well the period had been played, to be down 2-1…” Head Coach Paul Maurice said. “A toe drag in the offensive zone turns into a 4-on-2. That’s ill advised. Pretty simple coverage we missed on the next one.”
With six minutes left in the second period, Nashville forward Austin Watson received a match penalty (five and a game) for an illegal check to the head of Marko Dano. Dano was tended to by Head Athletic Therapist Rob Milette, and after a long assessment deep in the defensive zone, the newly acquired Slovak made it off under his own power. Dano returned the later in the game, recording an assist for his first point as a Jet.
“I feel all right. He caught my chin, but I saw him at the last second,” Dano said. “It was unlucky. He was trying to hit me in my body, but I was turning. I’m all right, so that’s all that matters.”
The Jets were unable to record a shot on the power play.
“If we can get one on there, we can swing the momentum our way. If they kill it off, like they did, it usually goes their way and that’s a big turning point in the game,” Stafford said.
“We just didn’t execute.”
Sophomore star Filip Forsberg had a chance to put it away on a partial break early in the third, but Pavelec made a wonderful blocker save of the youngster’s backhand deke.
Forsberg entered the night with 14 goals and 21 points in his last 14 games. He was held off the score sheet entirely tonight, but did draw a penalty on Tyler Myers that ultimately put the game away. It was questionable call, at best, but it was a Predators power play all the same. Ryan Johansen made good, slamming a loose puck into the open side to increase the lead the two, effectively putting the game out of reach with 11:05 to play.
“We were not happy at all with the Tyler Myers penalty. Sure enough, they scored on it,” Stafford said.
Jacob Trouba pulled the Jets within one with 6:23 to play, but Smith sealed less than two minutes later, and the home side was unable to draw any closer.
LATE HITS: After being recalled on emergency basis earlier in the day, Scott Kosmachuk made his NHL debut, dishing out three hits in 9:25 of ice time.
“It took a couple shifts for me to get into it, but the older guys helped calm my nerves,” he said.
Kosmachuk’s mom and brother, who live in Richmond Hill, Ontario, were in attendance.
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com