WINNIPEG - Mark Scheifele has had some great scoring chances this season and he was finally rewarded with just his second goal ? the winner in a 3-1 decision over the visiting Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
He tried to minimize the importance of goal No. 2 behind the impact of Winnipeg's (7-5-1) third win on home ice this season. But pushed once more about whether it was a relief, he had to smile.
"Yeah, a little bit, I think it definitely felt good, to get it right off the start and get it on the power play, it was good, but it was a great team effort by everybody," he said.
Scheifele's goal at 5:29 of the first period was the second of two power-play goals the Jets scored in a span of less than three minutes. The first was scored by Andrew Ladd at 2:53.
Their third goal was scored in the final minutes into an empty net by Blake Wheeler and moved the winger into a three-way tie with Ladd and Bryan Little for the Jets goal-scoring lead at five apiece.
Ondrej Pavelec's goaltending and Winnipeg's penalty kill were also huge as Nashville (7-3-2) put on the pressure to try and get back in the game after falling behind early.
"We made a lot of key stops in the third period," said Scheifele. "I think we killed two huge penalties. It just shows the hard work and sacrifice of everyone."
Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette said those two quick goals were hard to overcome.
"I really liked the way we started," he said, sporting a scab above his right eye from a stray puck he took to the face in the first period.
"The first three minutes we were down in their end and we were pounding and we ended up taking a penalty and a quick goal and two minutes later another penalty and a quick goal and it's 2-0 and you've got to dig yourself out of a massive hole."
Filip Forsberg scored Nashville's only goal.
"I didn't think we played that bad," he said. "Obviously they got those two goals at the start. It's tough to get back from that but I think we played hard . . . we just have to get a couple of more bodies in front (of the net).
"There's a lot good goalies in this league and I think Pavelec, he's one of them and you've just got take his size away a little bit."
Pavelec and backup Michael Hutchinson, who earned one of two back-to-back shutouts on the road last week, also set a new franchise record for stinginess Tuesday night.
With back-to-back shutouts in New York and Chicago, they'd gone 161 minutes 17 seconds without allowing a goal, until Forsberg connected at 16:17 of the second period with his fourth goal and 12th point this season.
Until then, Winnipeg hadn't been scored on since Oct. 30 in New Jersey.
"The power play goals were huge in the first and we killed the penalties at the right time," said Pavelec.
"We've been way better defensively the whole season long."
Coach Paul Maurice agreed. He said the team is doing a better job dealing with adversity and handling tight situations ??? especially late in their games.
"It's certainly not a matter of sitting back in the third, we're looking for that next goal," he said.
"I think we've worked hard at getting rid of the notion that the best thing we can do is try to score every time we touch the puck. Just take care of the 10 feet of ice that's around you."
The Predators rested Pekka Rinne and started backup Carter Hutton for the second time this season.
Hutton didn't have much chance on Ladd's goal as he deflected a hard shot from Dustin Byfuglien into the net and Scheifele put a wrister through heavy traffic.
The power plays in the first were killers, he agreed.
"We know they have a lot of dangerous forwards," he said. "Obviously back-to-back, we can't give those up. Our penalty kill has to be better, all around, from goaltending to everybody."
The win was also sweet for the Jets after being shut out by the Predators 2-0 in Winnipeg's home opener Oct. 17.
Notes: The old franchise record for not giving up a goal was 151:55 minutes, set over four games from Dec. 22-28, 2005, when they were still the Atlanta Thrashers. The Jets wore lavender-decorated Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys during the warmup. The jerseys are sold to raise money for cancer research and other cancer-related causes.