NASHVILLE, Tennessee – It was a blur so severe, it left many – including defenceman Mark Stuart – searching for words.
A four-goal, first-period blitz courtesy Calle Jarnkrok, Craig Smith, Seth Jones and Mike Ribiero powered the Nashville Predators past the Winnipeg Jets 7-0 Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
James Neal added another early in the second period, while Jarnkrok and Mattias Ekholm rounded out the scoring with a pair of late power-play markers.
Michael Hutchinson was pulled after allowing three goals on seven shots early in the first period. Ondrej Pavelec finished the game, stopping 23 of 27.
The Jets have now lost five in a row.
“That’s the thing about this league and being a professional. You can’t afford to be low for too long,” Stuart said. “You’ve got to play another game. We need to stick together in here, because if we don’t, it’s just going to get worse.
“You’ve got to continue to work, no matter how hard it is.”
The Predators jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a pair 73 seconds apart early in a merciless opening 20.
Jarnkrok tallied first at 4:45, launching a blocker-side shot top corner from just inside the right circle. It was the 14th time in 18 games the Jets have given up the first goal.
Uncovered in the blue paint, Smith extended the lead with a slam dunk in tight, turning and firing a shot past Hutchinson after receiving a 25-foot pass across the box.
Head Coach Maurice called timeout, but the bleeding continued.
“They got on us real quick and as soon as it went bad, we had a real difficult time doing some simple things and making some simple plays,” he said.
“We weren’t at the same speed as they were. That’s just the bottom line.”
Jones put the Preds up by three with a long bomb from the point at 13:01. Hutchinson – screened by his own defender – had little chance on the play, as the puck redirected off Chris Thorburn in the high slot.
Ribiero added the salt, finding a loose puck backdoor and plunging it past the goaltender with five-and-a-half to play in the opening 20 minutes.
The Preds picked up where they left off early in the second as Neal took a pass from Colin Wilson and made no mistake, blazing a shot low, into the open side.
Shots on goal favoured the Predators 20-14 after 40 minutes of play.
Emotion boiled over in the third period when 24 penalty minutes – including 10 unsportsmanlike minors – were assessed on the same stoppage. It was all the result of Mark Scheifele putting the puck into the net after the whistle, to which the Predators took exception.
Just a few minutes later, the gloves were off once again. Another three players were added to each penalty box after the Preds whacked at a loose puck in the crease, contacting Pavelec.
After the bouts, the penalties kept coming. Slashing, cross checking – about all the stick play one could imagine.
While Tyler Myers was off serving a double minor for high sticking, Jarnkrok and Ekholm scored on the Preds’ 32nd and 33rd shots, putting the home side up 7-0 with 6:27 to play.
“I’ve never seen (a game) like that,” Maurice said. “We’ve played at the end of games in the last minute or half of one with one D, but we had (Andrew) Copp and (Adam Lowry) on D for the last 12 minutes. They handled it real well, but it obviously killed us on that penalty kill when we had three forwards on the ice.”
The Jets are back in action on Monday night when they wrap up their four-game road trip against Vladimir Tarasenko and the St. Louis Blues.
“I don’t think you’re going to find a guy in here that’s happy about the way anything went here tonight,” Andrew Ladd said. “We’ll stick together and find a way to get out of this little funk we’re in. At the end of it, we’ll be a better team because of it.”
– Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com