Predators can't affored to get boxed in against Jets
For all the good things the Nashville Predators did last season to win the Presidents' Trophy, there was one nagging problem, which they've yet to solve in the first three games of the 2018-19 season.
The Predators can't stay out of the penalty box, and it came back to bite them Tuesday night in a 3-0 loss to Calgary that spoiled their home opener. Continued penalty issues could spell doom on Thursday night when they host the Winnipeg Jets in the teams' first meeting since a riveting Western Conference semifinal last spring.
After playing a reasonably clean game with just three minors and one shorthanded situation in the season opener on Oct. 4 at the New York Rangers, Nashville (2-1-0) drew five minors and had to kill off four power plays in a 4-3 win Saturday night at the New York Islanders.
The Predators then took three minors in the first 25 minutes Tuesday night, and the Flames converted two of those into goals to set the tone. Forced into chase mode the rest of the way, Nashville couldn't solve up-and-down goalie Mike Smith, who was on the up side of a 43-save shutout.
"We did good things, we just couldn't find a way to score and that was definitely frustrating," Predators center Ryan Johansen said. "We wanted to get the building involved and we were trying, but tonight wasn't our night."
Nor was it Nashville's night the last time it saw Winnipeg, which was on May 10 in Game 7 of a entertaining, back-and-forth series between the league's two best regular-season teams.
The Jets chased Pekka Rinne with two goals on shots Rinne badly wanted back, then pulled away in the third period for a 5-1 win that wrapped up a 4-3 series victory and their first trip to a conference final.
While these aren't the same teams that skated up and down the Bridgestone Arena ice on a warm spring night, they're still mostly intact. And the home crowd is sure to remember that Winnipeg ended what they presumed would be a run to the Stanley Cup.
"It'll probably get hyped up more just because of what happened last year, and I think that's just the way things go from previous years when teams come back and they reconnect the next year," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "There's always more of a hot button to it, but at the end of the day it's a new season."
One that the Jets (2-1-0) have started with great expectations after their best NHL season. They played their home opener as well on Tuesday night but unlike Nashville, they sent the home crowd out of the rink in a good mood after dispatching Los Angeles 2-1.
The final score didn't reflect Winnipeg's domination. The Jets owned major advantages in shots on goal (39-17), 5-on-5 shot attempts (56-33) and faceoff wins (37-21).
"We generate chances, zone time, from a certain type of mentality of what pucks we shoot and which ones we don't," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. "When we shoot the ones we want, we're able to carry and maintain our speed in the offensive zone."
Updated October 10, 2018