Winnipeg loses chance at home, now needs a road win to keep Stanley Cup hopes alive
WINNIPEG -- If the Stanley Cup is to spend a bunch of time in the area this summer -- potentially even with stops in Roseau and East Grand Forks -- the NHL’s best home team is going to need to come up with a big win on the road.
The Winnipeg Jets blew a chance to clinch their Western Conference semifinal series at home Monday night, suffering a 4-0 loss to Nashville that will force a decisive Game 7 on Thursday.
That game will occur in Nashville, not in Bell MTS Place, where the Jets have been so dominant this season, only to lose key back-to-back games against the Predators.
On Thursday in Game 4, Nashville snapped Winnipeg’s 13-game home winning streak that dated back to February.
On Monday in Game 6, Nashville snapped Winnipeg’s 52-game run without being shut out at home. That streak dated back to March 2017.
Now, Winnipeg’s Stanley Cup hopes will be pinned on a Game 7 between the NHL’s two best teams during the regular season.
“It’s going to be a hell of a game,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “We want it just as bad as they do.”
Former University of Denver star Paul Stastny added: “When you have two of the top teams playing each other, I’m sure that’s what the people wanted was a Game 7, and that’s what they’re going to get.”
Roseau’s Dustin Byfuglien, who is the NHL’s top scoring defenseman in the playoffs with 12 points in 11 games, played a game-high 25 minutes, 40 seconds on Monday, but was held without a point and registered a minus-2.
East Grand Forks Senior High graduate Tucker Poolman didn’t play Monday and hasn't played against Nashville yet.
The star of the game, instead, was Predators forward Filip Forsberg, who scored a pair of highlight-reel goals and added an assist and a plus-4 rating as the NHL’s best road team during the regular season once again had an answer for the Winnipeg Whiteout.
The last three teams to win in Winnipeg: Nashville (Feb. 27), Nashville (Thursday) and Nashville (Monday).
“It’s 3-3 and we still have a chance,” Jets forward Patrik Laine said. “Nothing’s gone. We had a chance today and we couldn’t take it. Now, we have another chance on Thursday. We’ve got to move forward.”
The city of Winnipeg was prepared to celebrate its first-ever second-round playoff victory -- something the old Jets never did before moving to Phoenix.
With 85 degree weather in Winnipeg, the city was preparing for not only the 15,321 in Bell MTS Place, but also 20,000-plus to be on Donald Street watching the game on the road adjacent to the rink.
But Nashville had other ideas.
Just 62 seconds into the game, Viktor Arvidsson (two goals, assist) tipped a point shot by Roman Josi past Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck for a 1-0 lead. The goal was initially waved off due to high sticking, but after a review, the call on the ice was reversed and it was called a goal.
Nashville added to the lead near the midway point of the second period when forward Forsberg got behind Jets defenseman Ben Chariot, fought off a check, and sniped the corner of the net for a 2-0 lead at 8:16.
The Predators added a third goal early in the third period when Forsberg got the puck on top of the crease, put the puck between his legs and beat Hellebuyck five-hole for a 3-0 lead.
That was plenty of offense for Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, who bounced back after allowing six goals on Saturday night in Game 5 for a 34-save shutout.
The Jets have won two games in Nashville already this playoffs, will need to win a third to advance to play Vegas in the Western Conference Finals.
“I think we’re playing a little bit harder on the road,” Laine said. “I don’t know why is that. We should be playing the same game. It doesn’t matter if we’re home or on the road. I think we’ve had a couple of real good road games. We’re going to need to have one more.”