Connor Hellebuyck stole Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals Friday night with 47 saves as the Winnipeg Jets overcame a 48-19 discrepancy in shots on net to beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
Hellebuyck made 20 saves in the first period and 16 more in the second while Brandon Tanev, Paul Stastny and Mark Scheifele beat Pekka Rinne for a 3-0 lead after two periods. That enabled Winnipeg to withstand a third period onslaught and grab a 1-0 lead in a best-of-seven series between the league’s two best teams in the regular season.
As an added bonus, the Jets not only took home-ice advantage, but knocked out Rinne after two periods. Rinne, who stopped 13 of 16 attempts, was replaced by Juuse Saros. He made two saves.
A low-scoring opener was somewhat surprising since the teams combined for 42 goals in five regular season games. Nashville won three of the five, potting 22 tallies, but simply couldn’t solve Hellebuyck in the teams’ first playoff meeting.
Winnipeg initiated scoring at 14:51 of the first period, shortly after a Craig Smith giveaway. Bryan Little maneuvered through traffic and squeezed off a shot that Rinne stopped, but Tanev jammed home the rebound for his second playoff goal.
Stastny made it 2-0 at 9:01 of the second period with his second postseason marker. Nikolaj Ehlers carried the puck into the zone and fed Patrik Laine. Rinne stopped Laine’s attempt, but Stastny buried the rebound from the slot.
Scheifele tacked on his fifth playoff goal at 17:51. Captain Blake Wheeler teed him up with a slick drop pass and Scheifele wired a wrister by Rinne.
The Predators finally got on the board just 1:23 into the third period. Kevin Fiala, who was ineffective in the team’s opening round elimination of Colorado, tapped in his second of the playoffs at the goalmouth after an excellent pass from behind the net by Kyle Turris.
Hellebuyck and the Jets held off a steady surge after Fiala’s goal, and Scheifele tacked on an empty-netter at 19:24.
—Field Level Media