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Predators finish as second wild card in West

Will face Blackhawks in first round of playoffs after loss to Jets

by Scott Billeck / NHL.com Correspondent

WINNIPEG -- The Nashville Predators will finish as the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference after a 2-1 loss against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre on Saturday.

The Predators (41-29-12) ended their regular season with 94 points. The Calgary Flames also have 94 points, but hold the regulation/overtime tiebreaker against Nashville (41-39 wins).

"I'm not happy with the last 10 minutes," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "The first 50 minutes I was really happy. We were skating well, we were in control of the game. I thought we played a real strong game."

 

WATCH: All Predators vs. Jets higlights

 

The Predators led 1-0 in thie third period, but Blake Wheeler scored shorthanded with 45 seconds left to make it 2-1 after Kyle Connor tied the game at 10:47.

"I was kind of flat-footed and I knew [Mark] Scheifele was coming with some speed so I just left the puck for him and we were off to the races," Wheeler said. "We were kind of knocking on the door all game, and what a play he made to send me in. That one felt good."

The Predators will play the Chicago Blackhawks, the Central Division champions, in the Western Conference First Round.

Video: NSH@WPG: Ellis steals puck, slides home pretty SHG

"It's a great challenge for us," Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "It's a world-class team and we obviously look forward to playing against them, but we've got to prepare well for next week."

Connor Hellebuyck made 33 saves for the Jets (40-35-7), who closed their season on a seven-game winning streak, setting a new franchise record.

Ryan Ellis scored for the Predators. Rinne made 34 saves.

"It was an OK game I guess, but obviously not the way we wanted to end the regular season," Rinne said.

Nashville went 0-for-6 on the power play.

Video: NSH@WPG: Rinne turns away multiple shots in close

Ellis scored shorthanded at 11:41 of the second period to make it 1-0. Bryan Little tried to work a pass to Mathieu Perreault in the neutral zone, but Ellis was there to cut it off, sending him on breakaway for his 16th goal.

Viktor Arvidsson appeared to make it 2-0 at 15:25. The referee called a good goal on the ice, but it was reversed because of goaltender interference.

Connor tied the game 1-1 on a wrist shot for his second goal of the season.

 

Goal of the game

Wheeler dropped the puck to Mark Scheifele and both broke out of the Jets zone. Scheifele passed to Wheeler, who pulled the puck to his backhand before shooting past Rinne for the game-winner.

Video: NSH@WPG: Wheeler gives Jets late lead with SHG

 

Save of the game

Hellebuyck kicked out his left pad to stop Arvidsson's snap shot in the slot with the Predators leading 1-0 early in the third period.

Video: NSH@WPG: Hellebuyck uses his pad to deny Arvidsson

 

Highlight of the game

Connor stole the puck from Anthony Bitetto and then had a give-and-go with Adam Lowry, with Connor scoring alone in front on a wrist shot.

Video: NSH@WPG: Lowry, Connor connect on give-and-go

 

Unsung performance of the game

Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba had five shots, three blocked shots and three hits in 25:44.

 

They said it

"There was 21 chances and 14, 15 chances, so yeah we missed some opportunities. It wasn't from a lack of taking them. If you had that many power plays and you walk through the second period and you only walk away with six shots on net and four scoring chances, then you miss some opportunities. But we took the opportunities and we weren't able to capitalize." -- Predators coach Peter Laviolette

 

"It was a fun game to be a part of and it obviously feels good to contribute. I kind of came in late at the end of the season; just shows you to never quit." -- Jets forward Kyle Connor

 

Need to know

Rinne has allowed two goals or fewer in eight of his past nine starts. … Nashville leads the NHL with 12 shorthanded goals. … Wheeler has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) during a seven-game point streak.  

 

What's next

Predators: Game 1 of Western Conference First Round against the Chicago Blackhawks, TBD

Jets: Season over.

 

Video: Wheeler scores late to power Jets to 7th straight win

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