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Big first period carries Jets past Predators

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Jets got some revenge on an opponent - and a goaltender -- that had tormented them this season as the Nashville Predators' seven-game road trip experienced some severe turbulence.

The Jets scored a season-high four first-period goals and rolled to a 5-0 victory against the Predators at MTS Centre on Friday. The Predators had taken the teams' first two meetings and came to Winnipeg after beating the Colorado Avalanche 6-4 in Denver two nights earlier.

But the Jets ended Nashville starter Carter Hutton's evening by scoring three goals on eight shots in the first 8:23 of the game. Hutton had held the Jets to one goal on 39 shots in his season debut at MTS Centre on Oct. 20, a 3-1 Nashville win. Four nights later in Nashville, Hutton stopped 34 shots in a 3-2 overtime win against the Jets.

Winnipeg (7-9-2) had lost seven of its past nine games and fallen to next-to-last in the Western Conference. Nashville (8-6-2) had been 2-0-1 on a seven-game road trip that included a victory against the Los Angeles Kings prior to the win against the Avalanche. The Predators visit the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.

Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, who returned after backup Al Montoya had started the past two games, stopped 41 shots in his first shutout since March 1, 2012. Pavelec departed his previous home outing last Saturday in the second period after the Chicago Blackhawks beat him four times in a 5-1 loss.

The win also provided Winnipeg with some relief amid a schedule that has featured two meetings with the Blackhawks in the past week, a visit from the San Jose Sharks on Sunday and a visit to the Detroit Red Wings next Tuesday. Winnipeg had struggled against the Central Division this season, and was 2-7-1 against division rivals before beating Nashville.

Bryan Little scored twice and leads the Jets with 10 goals, putting him in a four-way tie for third in the League.

Winnipeg owned a 3-0 lead on eight shots by 8:23 of the first period. Little scored the Jets' first goal of the night at 3:04 before Olli Jokinen had his third of the season at 6:47, breaking a nine-game drought. Dustin Byfuglien scored his first goal of the season, ending his 21-game goalless streak, and Devin Setoguchi welcomed Marek Mazanec, Hutton's replacement, by scoring his fourth of the season at 16:45.

Little added his second of the night midway through the third period.

Mazanec, whom the Predators recalled from the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League on Tuesday, made his NHL debut. He was 5-0-0 in his first five starts with Milwaukee with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. Mazanec became the fourth right glove-catching goaltender to play in the League this season.

The Jets feasted on the Predators from the start. Little scored on the Jets' third shot of the game, working the puck loose before releasing a shot that slipped through Hutton. Jokinen made it 2-0 when he took Evander Kane's centering pass from the right circle and redirected a shot past Hutton.

Byfuglien ended Hutton's night when he took a cross-ice pass from Grant Clitsome and drove a rising left-point shot through Hutton's pads. Jokinen set up the fourth goal when he won a left-circle draw and shuffled the puck to the slot, where Setoguchi deposited it past Mazanec.

Little close the scoring when he picked up the rebound of Blake Wheeler's right-side shot and beat Mazanec under the crossbar at 9:53.

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