The Winnipeg Jets came away with a win after a wild game three against the Nashville Predators.
This game had a little bit of everything; big hits, great saves, nice goals, and a spirited fight. The Predators were the ones who started the game with energy as they found themselves up by three goals after the first period. The Jets would respond in a huge way during the second period as they scored four unanswered goals to lead the game heading into the final frame. After Nashville tied the game midway through the third period, the Jets got three straight power play opportunities. They made no mistake with the man advantage as Blake Wheeler bounced a rebound off Rinne and into the back of the net for the game winner. Game three had many ups and downs with plenty of thumbs down early on, but plenty of thumbs up when it mattered.
First of all, thumbs up to Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien has been playing his best hockey during these Stanley Cup Playoffs. He is playing great defensively and is intelligently picking his spots to pinch or join the rush. When the Jets were down by three goals, they needed something to go right and get them back on track, and Byfuglien came through. After scoring the second Jets goal, Byfuglien followed up with a great one-timer from Laine to grab the lead heading into the third. Byfuglien was a force all night and ended the game with over 27 minutes of ice time. He was the best player on the ice during game three and a big reason that the Jets were able to come back.
Thumbs down to bad penalties. Game three had the most penalties so far between these two teams, and each had a few plays they would like to take back. Rinne’s penalty on Lowry behind the net was a horrible penalty to take. It may not have been the hardest slash, but the 360 degree windup made it an easy call for the official. The Jets had their own trouble with stick penalties as both Laine and Wheeler got called for tripping. With Nashville scoring two goals with the man advantage, the Jets will have to be careful to stay out of the box in game four.
Thumbs up to momentum swings. One of the reasons that playoff hockey is great to watch is because of the momentum swings throughout the game. During the second period the Jets badly needed a bounce to go their way. After getting that ricochet off Stastny’s leg, there was a figurative switch that was flipped. Just over two minutes later the Jets scored another goal and the crowd was on their feet. As the momentum would have it, the Jets scored 18 seconds later to complete the comeback and send the crowd into a frenzy. The disparity between the first and second periods was amazing to see and the momentum swings that happen during playoff games make them a joy to watch.
Thumbs up to coaching adjustments. As the Jets were getting outplayed in the first period, Paul Maurice made a subtle line change. He moved Ehlers to the top line in exchange for Connor. This adjustment paid off immediately as they looked much better once the switch was made. Connor and Laine had instant chemistry off the rush as they created quite a few scoring chances. Ehlers looked good with Scheifele and Wheeler as they can all skate at a high speed and carry the play. This small change during the first period was one of the reasons that the Jets were able to come back as the game progressed.
Thumbs down to the first period. The crowd was ready both inside and outside Bell MTS Place for their first taste of second round action at home. The game got off to a bad start as they gave up an early goal which sucked the life out of the crowd. Things went from bad to worse as the Jets took a few penalties and found themselves down by three goals not long after. This was the worst case scenario for the Jets after playing quite well in Nashville over the weekend. Luckily the Jets were able to score a few goals in the second period or else it would have been an awfully long night in Winnipeg. Regardless of the outcome of the game, the first period definitely deserved a big thumbs down.
Lastly, thumbs up and down to Blake Wheeler. Wheeler was around the net all game but could not seem to score. He had multiple chances from all over the ice, with his best chance coming from the slot as Rinne turned the puck over behind the net. Both Rinne and the Predators’ defenceman slid through the crease and left a wide open net for Wheeler who fired it high and wide. Wheeler put his head down in disbelief after missing such an open cage. Wheeler also took a bad penalty in the first period that resulted in the second Nashville goal. After a thumbs down for the first couple periods, Wheeler finished the game with a huge thumbs up as he scored not only the game winner, but the empty net insurance marker as well.