It took two tries but the Nashville Predators finally got the power-play goal they needed.
Mike Fisher scored 42 seconds into the third period moments after another goal was waved off for goalie interference. Fisher’s goal proved to be the winner as Nashville held on for a 4-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
“We weren’t sure about the call but we knew we had enough time to get another one,” said Fisher.
“It was a similar play, just puck to the net, rebound and we were in the right spots.”
Both Central Division teams are desperate for points as they head into the Olympic break well short of what they need to make the playoffs.
“We know we need to go on a tear to get back in it,” said Fisher. “It’s not going to be easy. We know there are a lot of teams right with us. . . . That’s what makes these games exciting. It felt a little bit more like playoffs tonight.”
The Jets (25-25-5) started the game a point ahead of Nashville (24-23-8) and finished it a point behind.
It was disappointing for a team that has been flying high since new coach Paul Maurice took over. Even with the loss they have won six of their last eight, including wins over Chicago and Anaheim in their own buildings.
“We were in the box maybe a little more than we’d want to be,” said Jets forward Blake Wheeler, who scored his NHL career-high 22nd goal.
“It would have been nice to start the third 5-on-5 . . . From there we were looking at an uphill battle.”
Maurice wasn’t happy about the penalty Devin Setoguchi took at the end of the second period that set up the power-play goal at the start of the third, but said the issue was addressed and Setoguchi was aggressive in the remainder of the third period as the Jets tried to generate offence.
“The team gets one opportunity to learn from the mistake and then you expect a response like that, an understanding, a responsibility and respect for his teammates to do everything possible to get it back.”
Overall, though, Maurice said the team played hard.
“It’s just such a hard grinding game and it was a battle all the way through . . . you could see it in their faces coming to the bench, they gave it everything they have.”
Seth Jones, Roman Josi and Nick Spaling also scored for Nashville. Chris Thorburn and Mark Scheifele had the other goals for the Jets.
On the downside, Nashville doesn’t know yet how long they might be without the services of captain Shea Weber, who left the game with what was described as an upper-body injury.
But coach Barry Trotz said it was encouraging to see the way the team rallied in the third period without him.
“It gives a lot of the young guys some confidence. . . It’s great for the learning curve,” he said.
Jones got things started with a perfect wraparound at 3:48 that slipped by Ondrej Pavelec but Thorburn tipped in his first goal of the season off the faceoff for the Jets just 22 seconds later.
Josi put the Predators ahead 2-1 just 42 seconds into the second period on a slick one-two-three combo from Craig Smith and David Legwand.
Winnipeg struggled at times to get the puck out of their own zone in the second period.
They had a couple of legitimate scoring chances but the closest they came was a post on a long hard shot from Zach Bogosian.
Instead, it was Spaling who snapped one in at 17:18 to put Nashville up 3-1.
But the Jets made up for their early period struggles with two goals in just 27 seconds.
The first was Scheifele’s shot into the crowd in front of Nashville goalie Carter Hutton that bounced in off his one of his own defencemen and it was capped with Wheeler’s career-high 22nd of the season at the 18:40 mark.
Notes: Forward Evander Kane was out of the Jets lineup again Tuesday with an infection in the hand he injured a fight with Tampa Bay’s Eric Brewer on Jan. 7. Kane initially missed four games but returned Jan. 21 to score a goal and three assists in the next four games. Now he isn’t expected to return until after the Olympic break. ... For the pre-game skate the Jets all wore No. 11 jerseys to mark Bell Let’s Talk Day and honour Rick Rypien, who signed with the team in 2011 but committed suicide at the age of 27 before reporting and wearing the number he had been assigned. He had a long history of clinical depression.
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