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game recap

Jets top Predators, clinch Stanley Cup Playoff berth

Hellebuyck makes 33 saves for shutout, Connor gets hat trick for Winnipeg

by Scott Billeck / NHL.com Correspondent

Connor notches first NHL hatty

NSH@WPG: Connor registers first career hat trick

Kyle Connor lit the lamp in the 2nd and twice more in the 3rd to record his first career hat trick in the Jets' 5-0 win against the Predators

  • 01:01 •

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and extended their lead in the Central Division with a 5-0 win against the Nashville Predators at Bell MTS Place on Saturday.

The Jets (45-26-4) have won five of their past six games and moved four points ahead of the Predators with one game in hand. Connor Hellebuyck made 33 saves for a shutout in his second consecutive start, Kyle Connor got his first NHL hat trick and added an assist, and Kevin Hayes had a goal and three assists.

"I think just playing the right way, and when you have that type of skill and to be able to play with those guys, you're going to create time and space for each other and we have those skills to make those plays," Connor said of his line with Hayes and Patrik Laine, who had an assist. "If we connect on them, it's pretty lethal."

 

[WATCH: All Predators vs. Jets highlights]

 

Pekka Rinne made 38 saves for the Predators (42-28-6), who have lost two straight (0-1-1).

"It's disappointing," Predators captain Roman Josi said. "Biggest game of the year up to this point and they're just better than us. It's disappointing."

Video: Hellebuyck earns Saturday's Pepsi Zero Sugar Shutout

Calle Jarnkrok appeared to give Nashville a 1-0 lead at 3:10 of the second period, but the Situation Room initiated a review and determined that the puck was played with a high stick.

Connor scored his 30th of the season after toe-dragging around Predators defenseman P.K. Subban and beating Rinne on the backhand to make it 1-0 at 4:42.

"He's a guy that we rely on for offense and scored a huge goal for us to get us going," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. "We hadn't scored a goal for about a game and a half (lost 5-0 to Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday), so he made an incredible play there to get us on the board. Hard work pays off. He's been on the puck all year."

Andrew Copp extended the lead to 2-0 at 14:16, scoring from below the goal line after banking the puck off Rinne's pads.

"They were just better than us the whole game," Josi said. "It's real disappointing that we played like that for such a big game. It was a big game for both teams and we just didn't play well enough."

Video: Enterprise Hat Trick: Connor nets first of career

Hayes pushed the lead to 3-0 at 15:41 on a slap shot from below the right circle that went off Rinne short side.

"I thought the first period we played really well," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "I thought we had the edge and just with what we were trying to do. I thought we were sharp and on point and then the next 40 (minutes) turned, we weren't good at all."

Connor scored on a 2-on-1 at 15:22 of the third period to make it 4-0 and completed the hat trick on a one-timer to make it 5-0 with nine seconds remaining in regulation.

"I was part of that," Hellebuyck said. "I did my job when I was needed, but the guys in front of me made it pretty easy.

"They were phenomenal. They were getting their sticks on everything, they were blocking shots, they were controlling the pace of play. Our details were right."

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Jets clinch a playoff spot

 

They said it

"At the end of the day, we're playing in two days, so we've got to look forward. But it's definitely a tough loss." -- Predators captain Roman Josi

"We can't get satisfied. We've got to know that we can bring it, but we've got to know it's hard work. And we've got to come back tomorrow and the next day and know that when you're at the rink, it's all or nothing." -- Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck

 

Need to know

Predators forward Ryan Johansen hasn't scored in 19 games. … Connor has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his past four games. … Laine hasn't scored in 12 games.

 

What's next

Predators: At the Minnesota Wild on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV)

Jets: Host the Dallas Stars on Monday (8 p.m. ET; TSN3, FS-SW, NHL.TV)

Video: Connor, Hellebuyck help Jets clinch with 5-0 win

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