The Winnipeg Jets pulled off one of the biggest series upsets in years as they beat the Nashville Predators 5-1 in game 7 Thursday night. Facing the best team in the league, Winnipeg came out fast, got ahead early, and never looked back.
Winners of the Presidents’ Trophy for best regular season team, the Predators were last years Stanley Cup runners-up. But two nights after the defending champs went out, so did the Predators. The Jets took the lead early on 2 soft goals, which saw Rinne given the hook. P.K. Subban pulled a goal back before the end of the period, but that was as good as it good for the Predators.
Despite outshooting Winnipeg again, they once again couldn’t get enough shots past Hellebuyck. Coming into the series if you’d said it would come down to goaltening everyone would’ve expected Rinne to come out on top. But Hellebuyck stepped up into the spotlight and made the big saves when they were needed.
Game 1 Set The Tone for Winnipeg
The Jets imposed themselves on the series right from game 1 with an impressive 4-1 win. With solid defence and outstanding goaltending from Connor Hellebuyck. While the Predators played their usual high-tempo attacking game, they failed to take their chances. Hellebuyck made an incredible 47 saves in game1, while Pekka Rinne was pulled in the second period. It wouldn’t be the last time in the series that Rinne would disappoint, allowing 3 goals in just 16 shots.
A double-overtime win saw the Predators tie the series in game 2. Rinne this time outplaying his counterpart with 46 saves. It was a high paced, end-to-end attacking game worthy of the NHL playoffs. It seemed like a turning point as the Predators seized the series momentum. In game 3 the Predators took a 3-0 lead in the first period and the writing seemed on the wall for the Jets.
Winnipeg Puts On A Comeback For The Ages
A young team, Winnipeg has consistently proved pundits wrong all season. Ranked just 19th in the pre-season rankings they were never expected to get this far. The game was too big for them, and it was time to face the piper. Only, it wasn’t. In one of the most memorable comebacks for years, goals by Stastny, Trouba and two for Byfuglien saw the Jets take the lead in the second period. A final score of 7-4 didn’t tell the full story of one of the most exciting games in recent years.
Once again the Predators came back in game 4 to level the series in a tight 2-1 win. That was followed by a comfortable 6-2 win for Winnipeg, and then a 4-0 for Nashville in game 6. Leading us to another game 7 series decider.
Rinne Pulled Again
Once again the Predators star goalie Pekka Rinne couldn’t rise to the challenge, giving up 2 goals on 7 shots in the first period. It was a shocking fall from grace for Rinne getting the hook in 2 of the 7 games. At times he was left exposed by his defenders, but he was well below his best. Particularly in games 1 and the all-important game 7. He lasted just 10 minutes and 7 seconds, the shortest ever outing for a starting goalie in a game 7.
“The biggest moment of the season, it’s a terrible feeling. You let your teammates down, and that’s what happened tonight. That’s tough to swallow.”
Winnipeg will now face the expansion Las Vegas Knights in the Western Conference Finals starting on Saturday.