Jets get greasy win in Game 1 despite Predators dominance

Connor Hellebuyck made 47 saves for the Jets as they beat the Predators 4-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

NASHVILLE — OK. So here’s Plan B.

Give ‘em the perimeter, protect the house, and score on the precious few chances we get. Then, later on, we’ll figure out how to play Game 2 without giving up another 48 shots on goal.

"It was," Winnipeg veteran Matt Hendricks surmised, "a greasy road win if ever there was one."

Greasy? You could fry a chicken in what happened here in Game 1 of this Central Division Final, as the Jets skulked out of Bridgestone Arena with a 4-1 win after being statistically bludgeoned for almost the entire 60 minutes.

Winnipeg won just 34 per cent of the faceoffs. They were outshot 48-19.

The shot attempts favoured Nashville 87-39. Over at the Corsica site, they had the Corsi 5×5 at 73 per cent for Nashville. The other 37 per cent of the time, the Jets were tossing the puck out of the zone and heading for a change.

Paul Maurice?

"I don’t feel as overwhelmed as the stats should tell me I should," said the Jets coach. "I’m usually pretty honest about that — I’m not trying to protect the group. They put an awful lot of pucks to the net from all over the ice.

"I’m not worried about those stats."

You know who might be? The Predators, who, you may recall, lost Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final last spring, allowing five Pittsburgh goals on just 12 shots. This had better not be a trend.

They say that a series doesn’t truly begin until the road team wins a game. Well, the other thing that begins only after such a win is the spin, which was flowing in the Nashville dressing room like draught beer on Broadway.

"If I’m being honest," began P.K. Subban, "that’s the best game we’ve probably played in the playoffs. Maybe one of our best of the year."

(Note: He said "If" he was being honest.)

"The bounces didn’t go our way and that’s one we’re OK (with). We’ll all sleep well tonight and we’ll be ready to go back at it on Sunday. There’s no question how well we played tonight."

And, this gem: "That’s probably the best I’ve felt after being minus-3 in a game."

The shots on goal were 20-4 when fourth-line winger Brandon Tanev tucked home a Bryan Little feed for a 1-0 Jets lead. The shots read 31-7 when Pekka Rinne robbed Patrik Laine on a loose puck chance, only to watch the rebound fall right on Paul Stastny’s tape for the 2-0 goal.

Nashville defenceman Roman Josi watched a couple of passes hop over his stick that would have been open-net chances. At 2-0, the Preds’ Filip Forsberg stared down a power play chance that he buries 19 times out of 20. He got all of a one-timer with the Jets net completely vacant, and the puck rang off the post.

Seconds later Mark Scheifele made it 3-0 for the Jets.

"A couple bounces here and there and this game definitely could have gone the other way," lamented Forsberg.

So, what REALLY happened here? How does Winnipeg win a road game in this building without having the puck even one-third of the game?

Well, give the Jets credit for having a solid Plan B. If they couldn’t control the puck, they said, "Fine, we’ll control the slot."

Winnipeg allowed a passel of shots from range, but almost zero second opportunities, tips, or shots through screens. They trusted Connor Hellebuyck to make every first save, and he trusted them to: A) Make sure he could see those shots; and B) clear the rebound.

"They’re a volume shooting team," Hendricks said. "They get a lot of pucks to the net and they have guys who find the dirty rebounds."

Nashville was allowed to execute the first half of that Hendricks quote, and denied the second half. And don’t think for a second the Predators don’t realize what happened here. They’ve been around. They know.

And the Jets? They also know that wins like this one have a shelf life.

At 3-1, Hellebuyck made a save with the shaft of his stick above his blocker, an age old sign of a goalie with a horseshoe stashed in an uncomfortable place. He lost a personal scoreless streak of 163 minutes early in the third period — 183 minutes for the Jets as a team (the backup played a period) — but no one is going to count on Forsberg to hit that post again in Game 2.

Those pucks will settle on Josi’s stick sooner than later, and 19 shots on net wins a playoff game, what, every ninth or tenth time?

Nashville coach Peter Laviolette knows all of that. But, alas it is little solace.

"Right now you give me two choices on where to be, our game or their win," he said. "I’d take the win."

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