EditorsNote: adds quotes from Johansen and Maurice
The NHL’s two best regular-season teams will need a Game 7 to settle their Western Conference semifinal series.
Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson each scored two goals, and Pekka Rinne turned away 34 shots for his fifth career playoff shutout Monday night as the visiting Nashville Predators blanked the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 at Bell MTS Place.
The result equaled the series at three games each. The deciding game will be Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., the first time the Predators will have hosted a Game 7 in franchise history.
It will be the first Game 7 for Winnipeg since the Atlanta Thrashers franchise moved to Manitoba prior to the 2011-12 season.
“I think we can gain a lot of confidence from this game,” Predators center Ryan Johansen said, according to the Tennessean. “It wasn’t like we snuck away with one or weaseled a game out or whatever you want to call it. We controlled the game tonight. With our backs against the wall, we went out and we controlled the game.
“I think we need to recognize that and understand when we’re all on the same page, that’s how we can execute on a daily basis.”
In what was billed as the biggest game in Winnipeg’s NHL history, Nashville needed just 1:02 to spoil the mood. A spinning Arvidsson deflected Roman Josi’s point shot past goalie Connor Hellebuyck, although the tally was waved off quickly by referee Wes McCauley.
Upon video review, McCauley reversed his call that Arvidsson played it with a high stick. The goal gave the Predators an immediate lead and forced Winnipeg into chase mode.
Nashville gave the Jets three power-play chances in the first period but killed each with little trouble. Those failures hung like a millstone around Winnipeg’s collective neck, particularly when Forsberg began working his magic.
Moments after breaking a stick, Forsberg went back to his bench for another. A long pass from Craig Smith found him at the blue line. Forsberg powered through Ben Chiarot’s attempted tackle and beat Hellebuyck at 8:16 of the second period.
Forsberg outdid himself with his seventh playoff goal at 5:55 of the third period. He pulled the puck between his legs in front of Hellebuyck and flicked a wrister that caromed off the goalie and into the net.
Arvidsson added an empty-netter at 15:58, his fifth of the postseason, to cap the scoring. It was the fourth time in six games that the road team has won in the series.
Hellebuyck finished with 25 saves.
Winnipeg wasn’t able to trouble Rinne enough, according to Jets coach Paul Maurice.
“Most of our best offense never got to the net. Good sticks on them, great job blocking shots,” Maurice said. “We need to get a little faster, a little quicker. I know you get tired of me saying that, but it’s the foundation of what we do. For whatever reason, we didn’t have that tonight.
“We didn’t move the puck particularly well on (the power play), but that was also in the five-on-five game, not just the five-on-four game.”
—Field Level Media