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Jets defeat Predators for third straight win

by Patrick Williams / NHL.com

WINNIPEG -- An unlikely weapon helped spark the Winnipeg Jets in a 3-1 win against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

Winnipeg had scored three power-play goals in its first 12 games. Against the Predators, who entered the game ranked 28th in the NHL on the penalty kill, the Jets needed three shots and 2:06 of man-advantage time to score two power-play goals.

The Jets have won three consecutive games. They have scored four goals and allowed one during the streak.

Dating to Oct. 26, the Jets are 5-0-1 after starting the season 2-5-0.

"We're not playing perfect hockey by any means," Jets coach Paul Maurice said. "We have lots of room to improve, but our reaction to bad things that happen…is much better right now than it was [earlier in the season]."

Power-play goals from Andrew Ladd and Mark Scheifele in the first 5:29 of the game built a 2-0 lead for the Jets. The goals were the fourth and fifth in 41 power-play opportunities this season for the Jets, who began the game ranked 28th in the League with the man advantage (7.7 percent).

"That was big for our power play, especially against a team like that, that doesn't give you much 5-on-5," Ladd said. "It was nice to get a two-goal cushion and have that energy from our power play."

Blake Wheeler scored an empty-net goal with 1:40 left in the game.

Predators left wing Filip Forsberg, the NHL's leading rookie scorer at 12 points, ended Winnipeg's shutout streak at 161:17 with a goal late in the second period.

Winnipeg shut out the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks over the weekend. The Jets set a new franchise record for longest shutout streak early in the second period Tuesday, breaking the 151:55 mark set Dec. 22-28, 2005, when the franchise was based in Atlanta. Before Forsberg's goal, the Jets had not allowed a goal since the third period of a 2-1 shootout loss against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 30.

Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec and Predators goalie Carter Hutton each finished with 23 saves.

"It's always teamwork," Pavelec said of the shutout streak. "You need the guys in front of you [in order] to have a shutout. It's good for our confidence, but that's it. It's about the win at the end of the day."

The Jets arrived home for two games at MTS Centre this week squeezed in between a 3-0-1 road trip that they completed this past weekend and a five-game road trip that begins Saturday. They are in the middle of a stretch that has them playing nine of 11 games on the road.

"I had no idea what the streak [was], and I was just focused on staying in the game, because we all know how it is when you are coming back from a road trip," Pavelec said. "I think we were ready to play. That was huge."

With the Predators in the middle of a six-game road trip that will finish with games against the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, Nashville coach Peter Laviolette rested No. 1 goaltender Pekka Rinne. Hutton, who had played one game this season before getting the start in Winnipeg, faced an early barrage from the Jets after the Predators took two penalties in the first 3:41 of the game.

The Jets had gone three games without a power-play goal, but 18 seconds after Nashville's Matt Cullen took an interference penalty, Ladd tipped Dustin Byfuglien's point shot past Hutton 2:53 into the game for his fifth goal.

After Colin Wilson's hooking minor, Scheifele's rising wrist shot from the left circle slipped past Hutton's blocker at 5:29 for a 2-0 lead. Scheifele's second of the season broke a seven-game goal drought.

"You've got to dig yourself out of a massive hole," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said of Winnipeg's early goals. "I give our guys credit because [we] kept attacking, we kept trying and pushing it and [were] unable to get the second goal."

Eight seconds after the Predators' first power play of the game ended, Forsberg scored his fourth goal when he squeezed a wrist shot from the left circle through Pavelec's pads at 16:17 to cut the Jets lead in half. Forsberg had two goals and an assist Sunday in a 3-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks and has a three-game point streak (three goals, three assists).

However, the Predators could not tie the game, and the Jets limited them to seven third-period shots.

"You've got to give Winnipeg some credit, because they did a really good job defensively," Laviolette said. "It was very difficult to get positioning on the inside in the defensive zone. They were quick to the battles."

Maurice said that the Jets are becoming more comfortable with playing in close games, especially late.

"I hope they feel good going into those tight situations, that they know how they're going to react to it," Maurice said. "There is a calm. Wins change the pressure on the bench and the confidence. Then as you get further and further into the rhythm of doing the same things over and over in your own end, you start to feel comfortable there."

Pavelec is coming off a season in which he had a 3.01 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage, but his play early in the season has carried the Jets through some difficulties. Pavelec's 12 games lead the NHL, and the 27-year-old has a 2.01 GAA to go with his .924 save percentage.

In his past three games, Pavelec has stopped 88 of the 90 shots that he has faced.

The Jets finished 22nd in the League last season with 2.82 goals allowed per game; this season, they have allowed 2.00 goals per game and their 27.5 shots-against per game ranks them eighth.

"I think we deserved to win," Pavelec said. "We played really well defensively. We've been way better defensively [all season]."

The Predators move on to Dallas, where they will play the Stars on Thursday as they begin to wind down their road trip.

Hutton settled down after allowing the two early goals.

"Playing behind a guy like [Rinne], that's my job to be ready when I get a chance," Hutton said. "I'm not going to play the same minutes as last season when he was out. I have to find ways to give our team a chance to win. Obviously we didn't get the win, but it's definitely something we can build on and go from there."

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