The Nashville Predators scored four times in the first period and never looked back as they knocked off the Winnipeg Jets by a 7-0 final on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.
It was the second time this week the Preds have put up seven goals in a game, the first coming on Tuesday in a 7-5 win over Ottawa. Six different skaters tallied for the Preds while Pekka Rinne stopped all 20 Jets shots he faced.
“That was a great first period, and it set the tone for the rest of the night,” Rinne said. “We kept going, we didn’t take our foot off the gas and we played a strong game until the end; a full 60 minutes and we deserved that big win.”
The Preds struck first when Cody Hodgson chipped a pass ahead to Calle Jarnkrok who one-timed the puck from the right circle past the glove of Michael Hutchinson for his third goal of the season. Craig Smith chimed in just over a minute later by finishing off a pretty passing play involving Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg, who found Smith with plenty of time on the doorstep to deposit the puck for a 2-0 advantage.
Seth Jones then got on the board of the first time on the campaign and chased Hutchinson in the process for a 3-0 lead. Jones’ point shot found its way through traffic, leading Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice to send Ondrej Pavelec in to tend net. The second Winnipeg netminder was welcomed by a goal from Mike Ribeiro, who potted his second of the season at the 14:33 mark for a 4-0 Nashville advantage to finish out the opening period.
The newly-formed line of Smith, Ribeiro and Filip Forsberg was on the ice for three of the four first-period goals. It was the most goals the Preds have scored in a single frame since they registered five in the third period at Toronto on Nov. 18, 2014.
“A lot of forwards jumped in and pushed some offense, which was good,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “A few games in a row there have been lots of opportunities, lots of chances and sometime you’re just snake bit. Tonight it seemed to come out for us.”
James Neal started the second period off when he made it 5-0 at the 2:56 mark on a feed from Colin Wilson. It was Neal’s team-leading eighth of the season and his 14th all-time against the Jets, his most against any team.
Jarnkrok added his second of the night on the power play in the third period before Mattias Ekholm scored on the man advantage to round out the scoring.
The two teams also combined for 156 penalty minutes in a chippy affair, 72 of which were handed to Nashville, their third-highest, single-game total in club history. But the Preds kept their focus despite the commotion, finishing off one of their strongest efforts of the season, which started right from the opening faceoff.
“We talked about Winnipeg, we know what type of game they play, we know what they are capable of and our guys were really prepared for the first period.” Laviolette said. “We wanted to play a direct game and I think we accomplished that.”
Top Six Switch-Up Pays Off:
Looking for a spark after the Predators only scored once on Thursday in a shootout loss to Toronto, Laviolette tweaked his top two lines Saturday night, putting Filip Forsberg alongside Mike Ribeiro and Craig Smith on one unit, while Colin Wilson skated with Mike Fisher and James Neal. It worked pretty well.
The Forsberg-Ribeiro-Smith line was on the ice for three of the four first-period goals, with Smith scoring his first since Oct. 17 at Ottawa.
“Our team has been playing great, and I think every line is just chipping in in some way,” Smith said. “On any given night, someone’s going to step up and make a play and get a goal… Not every game is going to be like this, but we got guys that have confidence to put one in.”
Ribeiro’s goal was his second of the season, his first since Oct. 22, and the veteran forward was pleased with the tweak in the trios up front.
“Usually when you make changes like that, it gives you some energy to play with different players,” Ribeiro said. “It was good to have a little change in the lines and when that happens, you get a little more jump into the game. [Smith] played great and it was just good to have a change.”
Gif of the Game:
Seth Jones’ point shot zips past a few players and goaltender Michael Hutchinson on its way into the net for a 3-0 Preds lead.
Peter Laviolette on capitalizing against the Jets:
“Well I think that is what every team wants to do,” Laviolette said. “We’ve had good games with Winnipeg and been on the wrong side of the score; that’s what they did to us. Most teams are looking to pressure pucks and create turnovers. When you can do that, you can create offense.”
The Predators have scored 15 goals over their last three games. Nashville is now 4-0-0 when Craig Smith scores a goal this season.
Filip Forsberg (3a) and James Neal (1g-3a) are both on three-game point streaks.
Nashville is now 9-1-1 this season when scoring the first goal.
The Predators face the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night at Bridgestone Arena, the third and final meeting between the two clubs this season.
Pekka Rinne and his 20-save shutout find a place of prominence in tonight’s infographic.
Infographic: Preds Ground the Jets