Game Five between the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets went beyond rhyming. It was a total homonym to Game One.
With the chance to put their feet to the Jets’ throats, the Predators instead stumbled in a 6-2 loss and are now face an elimination game for the first time in a non-Stanley Cup Final series since they faced the San Jose Sharks in 2016.
The graphs and numbers from Saturday’s tilt look eerily similar to those from Game One of this series. This is Game One’s Natural Stat Trick heat map, and below it is Saturday’s.
While the Predators owned 66.36% of the shot attempts in Game One and just over 50% of them in Game Five, that was primarily thanks to a Jets-dominated second period on Saturday. The Predators had 61.36% of the shots in the first period of Game Five and also owned 60+% of the shots in the third period per Natural Stat Trick.
While the Predators saw their shot share drop by about 13% from Game One, they owned 60+% of the shots during the first and third periods. It was a dismal second period in which the Jets had 62% of the shots that did them in. Perhaps it could have been alleviated by capitalizing on their dominant first period.
“Yeah, I mean, there’s not much we can do other than bury our chances when we get them,” defenseman P.K. Subban said. “And we had a ton of chances to do it and we didn’t get it. Like I said, they played a good game, but I don’t think they were that much better than us. I just think that it was some bounces and some mistakes. Every time we made a mistake, it ended up in our net.
“For us, we’re going to wake up in the morning and that page is going to be turned. We’re going to go to Winnipeg and we’re going to win a game and we’re going to come back here. It’s that simple.”
The first period was all Predators as they crashed the net and tried to find chances. The seemingly snakebitten second line of Kevin Fiala, Kyle Turris and Craig Smith were buzzing, combining for seven of the Predators’ 27 shot attempts in the frame, but couldn’t get anything past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
Then it all fell apart in the second period.
The Jets hemmed the Predators in their own zone, and the formula was the same each time: get a good chance, get Pekka Rinne scrambling and finally finish on the third or fourth try with Predator bodies strewn about.
It was ugly.
“We’re giving them way too much, too many great chances,” captain Roman Josi said. “Tonight you saw it again, they’re all back door, empty net, rebounds in front of the net. We’ve got to make sure, I mean, they’re a dangerous team, they’re going to get their chances, but we’ve got to make sure we stay calm. I didn’t think it was all bad tonight. I think we started well, we had our chances, but it didn’t go our way tonight.”
Nashville could have had the chance to re-gain some momentum when Yannick Weber went full send and forced a turnover, carried the puck up ice and roofed one past Hellebuyck to even the score in the second period. However, Winnipeg had the lead again just under a minute and a half later with Kyle Connor’s first tally of the playoffs.
As it’s been all series long, the Jets blew the door off after the Predators left it open just a crack.
“I don’t know if we lost our composure, but it felt like for half a second when we weren’t 100% perfect they capitalized,” center Ryan Johansen said. “Speaking for the guys, we were working really hard, we just got kind of unlucky. That’s how it felt.”
After a performance like that, the Predators leave a lot to be desired. They’ll be able to fulfill those desires with another strong performance in Winnipeg.
“We’re a character group,” Subban said. “We’ve got a ton of experience in here. We’ve had our backs against the wall before, and we’re going to Winnipeg, we’re going to win a game, and we’re going to come back here. Every single guy in here believes that. For us, we’ve got to park this real quick and just get ready to win a Game Six on the road. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, it’s going to be great for our hockey club and we’re going to build a lot of character out of that game and bring it back home.”
“Well we had to go to Winnipeg anyway, right?” coach Peter Laviolette said. “The plane’s already booked, we’re ready to go. There’s no group that I’d rather be with to win one hockey game than this group.”