NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kyle Connor scored two goals and had an assist as the Winnipeg Jets beat the Nashville Predators 6-2 on Saturday night, pushing the Presidents’ Trophy winners to the brink of elimination with a 3-2 lead in their Western Conference semifinal.
Now the Jets, who just won their first playoff series in the first round, will have a chance to clinch a spot in their first Western Conference final Monday night in Game 6 back in Winnipeg.
Connor Hellebuyck made 38 saves for the Jets.
Dustin Byfuglien and Mark Scheifele each had a goal and an assist, and Paul Stastny and Mathieu Perrault also scored as the Jets got four goals on 14 shots in the second period. Blake Wheeler also had three assists, and Nikolaj Ehlers added two.
Yannick Weber and Ryan Johansen each scored for Nashville. The Predators have not won consecutive games since taking a 2-0 lead over Colorado to start the playoffs.
Pekka Rinne, Nashville’s Vezina Trophy finalist, was pulled for the third time this postseason after giving up six goals on 26 shots.
Lady Antebellum became the latest star act to handle the U.S. anthem, and the Grammy-winning trio missed part of the lyrics . But Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton waved the rally towel, and one of first catfish to hit the ice was tossed by Caleb Daniel, a 5-year-old Predators fan with a new heart.
Nashville coach Peter Laviolette switched his lines again, swapping out Scott Hartnell for Kevin Fiala. This change didn’t work.
Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice brought back Perrault on the third line after missing eight games with an upper-body injury.
The Predators had plenty of great scoring chances while outshooting the Jets 11-7. Only a great performance by Hellebuyck kept it scoreless through the first period for the first time in this series.
They made up for that in the second. Patrik Laine helped get the Jets on the board with a shot that deflected off Stastny’s right hand and past Rinne at 7:44. Defenseman Yannick Weber tied it up for Nashville with a wrister from the left circle at 11:08 .
Then the Jets scored two goals 2:05 apart. First, Connor scored off the rebound of a shot by Scheifele with 7:30 left for his first postseason goal, then Rinne lost his stick in a scrum in the crease. The puck squirted out, and Byfuglien scored with a slap shot for a 3-1 lead with 5:25 remaining. Connor made it 4-1 with a wrister from the slot with just under three minutes to go.
The period seemed to be slipping further away from Nashville when Viktor Arvidsson went to the box for slashing. But Johansen scored his fifth goal this postseason with 2:01 remaining for the first short-handed goal of his career in the postseason.
The Jets made it 5-2 just 28 seconds into the third, stifling any Nashville rally when Scheifele scored his ninth goal this postseason from the slot . Perreault capped the scoring at 6:23 to chase Rinne for the second time this series.
NOTES: Nashville now is 0-4 when trailing after two periods. … Weber’s goal was the fourth of his career in the postseason and first with Nashville.
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