NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets put on a fast-paced, thrilling playoff show that reminded everyone why they finished ahead of everybody else in the NHL’s regular season.
Thanks to Kevin Fiala, the Presidents’ Trophy winners go to Winnipeg breathing a little easier.
Fiala scored off a 2-on-1 5:37 into double overtime to give the Predators a 5-4 victory over the Jets on Sunday night in Game 2, tying the Western Conference semifinal series.
“Very happy that we won,” Fiala said. “That’s all that matters. It was a huge game for us to tie it up 1-1. It was very big for us.”
Nashville had the NHL’s best road record during the regular season, but the Predators got the split they needed before Game 3 on Tuesday night in Winnipeg where the Jets posted the league’s best home record.
“It’s huge, a big difference being 2-0 or 1-1,” said Predators goalie Pekka Rinne, who had a career playoff-best 46 saves. “Obviously, we’ll take this. It was an emotional game, and now it’s time to go on the road and we need to steal a couple of wins in their building.”
Craig Smith and Fiala skated up on a 2-on-1, and Jets defenseman Dustin Byflugien failed to block Smith’s cross-ice pass to Fiala who beat goalie Connor Hellebuyck with a backhander.
Ryan Johansen scored twice, Viktor Arvidsson had a goal and two assists, and P.K. Subban had a goal and an assist as Nashville won both its 100th postseason game as a franchise and coach Peter Laviolette’s 50th with the team. Filip Forsberg also had three primary assists for the first time in the postseason in his career.
Laviolette said at one point in the second period the game looked like a track meet both teams were skating so fast. He noted the Jets finished just three points behind Nashville.
“They’re a good team as well,” Laviolette said.
Mark Scheifele scored twice and had an assist. Byflugien had a goal and an assist, and Brandon Tanev had a goal for Winnipeg, which lost its first multiple-overtime game for a franchise that just won its first playoff series in the first round.
“It’s a sucky way to lose, but we played a better game tonight than we did on Friday,” Scheifele said. “That’s a positive. We can be upset for 10 minutes and then after that, we’ve got to get our rest and then get ready for Tuesday.”
Tanev tied it at 3, putting the puck past Pekka Rinne’s right skate at 5:11 of the third. Johansen answered 34 seconds later, skating around Jets defenseman Toby Enstrom and beating Hellebuyck top shelf.
But Scheifele forced overtime with his fourth goal in this series and eighth this postseason with 1:05 left in regulation and Hellebuyck pulled for the extra attacker.
The Predators brought star Carrie Underwood in for the U.S. anthem as a “proud hockey wife” of Nashville center Mike Fisher, and Marcus Mariota brought the NFL’s Tennessee Titans offensive linemen to wave the rally towels. Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan held up a huge catfish before they chugged beers — Lewan using the catfish as a funnel.
After throwing up a postseason-high 48 shots in losing Game 1 on Friday night, the Predators wasted no time getting on the board this time. Johansen scored 27 seconds in on Nashville’s first shot and a 1-0 lead, snapping Winnipeg’s streak of 10 straight games scoring the first goal with the Jets going 9-1-0 in that stretch dating back to the regular season.
The Jets made up for that by scoring twice 29 seconds apart to grab the lead. Byflugien scored between Rinne’s pads on a 4-on-4 at 12:47, and Scheifele made it 2-1 with a power-play goal at 13:16 of the period.
Subban tied it with a slap shot for Nashville’s first power-play goal of the series and the Norris Trophy finalist’s first goal this postseason at 5:04 of the second. That brought the sold-out crowd to life again, and Rinne settled down as well. A couple minutes later, he made a big pad save on a shot by Kyle Connor and then gloved a shot from Byflugien.
Arvidsson gave Nashville a 3-2 lead with a slap shot from the right circle at 18:41 of the second.
Coach Paul Maurice said his Jets at least go home with a split and isn’t sure that home ice will be a huge advantage with matchups not changing.
“There will be a little bit more excitement when Patty rings one off the post,” Maurice said of his forward, Patrik Laine.