Blake Wheeler’s wrist-shot 51 seconds into overtime helped the Winnipeg Jets avoid a huge comeback bid by the Nashville Predators with a 5-4 victory on Thursday.
Dustin Byfuglien scored twice in regulation for the Jets (20-21-3), while Bryan Little and Nikolaj Ehlers added goals as well. Rookie Connor Hellebuyck stopped 31 shots for the win, making his ninth start in Winnipeg’s last 10 games.
Ryan Johansen, Eric Nystrom and James Neal all scored in the third period as Nashville (19-18-7) rallied from a 4-1 deficit. Kevin Fiala opened scoring for the Predators in the first period as Pekka Rinne made 19 saves.
Entering Thursday night, Rinne was 1-8-2 with a 3.29 goals-against average in his last 11 road starts.
Following a feverish finish to regulation that saw nearly two minutes of 3-on-3 hockey, Neal’s equalizer with 13.5 seconds remaining in the third sent Nashville and Winnipeg to another round of 3-on-3 in overtime.
The Jets held a 4-1 lead in the third after rookie Ehlers scored his eighth goal on the year, but Nashville responded with goals less than three minutes apart midway through the period as recent addition Johansen and Nystrom scored to made it 4-3 with 8:07 to play.
Byfuglien book-ended three second period Winnipeg goals as the Jets put an end to their three-game slide, closing the gap between the two division rivals.
Nashville now losers of five in a row, finish their four-game road trip pointless, allowing Winnipeg within two points of their quickly loosening hold on the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference at 45 points.
Byfuglien’s 10th and 11th of the season are the first goals for the Jets’ lone All-Star selection since Dec. 18.
The Predators opened the scoring just 59 seconds after puck drop. A video review placed roughly 10 seconds back on the score clock when it was determined Fiala’s initial shot crossed the line before quickly bouncing out off the internal crossbar. It was the first-career NHL goal for the 19-year-old Fiala, playing in his first game of the season and third of his NHL career since being selected 11th-overall in 2014.
Moments after Mark Stuart and Paul Gaustad went off for fighting, Byfuglien found the equalizer for Winnipeg. Following a wrist-shot from the top of the circle, Byfuglien grabbed his own rebound and fired home his 10th of the season, beating Pekka Rinne low stick side 6:32 into the second.
The Jets and their 28th-ranked power play were given ample opportunities against the Predators, seeing five chances with the man-advantage. With Neal off for interference just 1:28 after Byfuglien’s equalizer, Winnipeg’s leading point-getter Wheeler walked into the slot before quickly dishing off to Little whose one-timer re-established his sole possession for the team lead in goals with his 15th.
Byfuglien left the game in the third period with an undisclosed injury.Report Typo/Error