Rinne shuts the door, Predators beat Jets 2-1 to even series at 2-2

Subban nets winner for Nashville

WINNIPEG — Pekka Rinne made 32 saves as the Nashville Predators defeated the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Thursday to even their second-round series 2-2.

Ryan Hartman and P.K. Subban scored for the Predators.

Patrik Laine replied for the Jets, who got 29 stops from Connor Hellebuyck.

Game 5 of the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal goes Saturday in Nashville, with Game 6 set for Winnipeg on Monday.

Game 7, if necessary, would be back in Nashville next Thursday.

While not really at fault on any of the five goals he allowed in the Predators’ 7-4 loss in Game 3, Rinne still rebounded in impressive fashion behind a team that played much better defensively and won the vast majority of the 50-50 battles.

The Jets had far less space in the neutral zone to operate, but also saw a couple of golden opportunities just bounce over their sticks.

Leading 1-0 after the first period, the Predators stretched their lead to two with 5:24 left in the second when Subban blasted a one-timer on Nashville’s first power play of the night through Hellebuyck for his third goal of the series, and third of the playoffs.

Booed by the thunderous white-clad crowd every time he’s touched the puck the last two games, Subban seemed to feed off the noise directed his way at the cauldron that is Bell MTS Place.

The Jets had a couple of great chances to tie the game earlier in the period, with Kyle Connor missing on a pass from Bryan Little in the slot on a man advantage before Mark Scheifele saw the puck skip over his stick on a 2-on-1 with Blake Wheeler moments before Subban silenced the home crowd with his power-play blast.

Laine scored on a 6-on-4 advantage with 50.2 seconds left in the third — his third of the playoffs and first of the series — but the Predators held on from there to wrestle back home-ice advantage.

Nikolaj Ehlers was back on the Jets’ top line alongside Scheifele and Wheeler after switching spots with Connor following Tuesday’s disastrous opening 20 minutes that saw Winnipeg fall behind 3-0. Connor once again skated with Laine and Paul Stastny.

Nashville opened the scoring with 2:40 left in the first when Hartman scored his second of the playoffs off a scramble in front. An attempted clear by Winnipeg’s Ben Chiarot in front instead went off defence partner Tyler Myers and right to Hartman, who was quickest to the loose puck before beating Hellebuyck upstairs.

The teams traded chances earlier in the period, with Hellebuyck stopping Roman Josi and Scott Hartnell on 2-on-1 breaks, while the butt end of Rinne’s stick got in the way of Josh Morrisey’s backhand chance along the ice at the other end.

Winnipeg advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since relocating from Atlanta in 2011, brushing aside the Minnesota Wild in five games. The old Jets, who left town in 1996 to become the Phoenix Coyotes, only made it beyond the first round twice in their history, with the last coming in 1987.

The Predators, meanwhile, disposed of the Colorado Avalanche in six games in the opening round, and are looking to get back to the Stanley Cup final after losing out to the Pittsburgh Penguins in last year’s final.

Nashville collected an NHL-high 117 points in the regular season to win the Presidents’ Trophy, while Winnipeg finished with to come second. But because of the NHL’s playoff format, the two Central Division rivals are meeting in the second round instead of potentially tangling in the Western Conference final.

Notes: The Jets inserted winger Joel Armia into the lineup after he missed the first three games of the series with an upper-body injury. Rookie forward Jack Roslovic was a healthy scratch. … Hartnell drew in for Kevin Fiala, who scored in double overtime for Nashville in Game 2. The Predators also dressed defenceman Yannick Weber in place of Alexei Emelin.


Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press