Mikael Granlund buried the game-winner in overtime, and the Nashville Predators came back to top the Winnipeg Jets, 2-1, on Tuesday night at Bell MTS Place.
The forward picked a fine time to score his first game-winning goal as a member of the Predators, and his team started a crucial, four-game road trip with a significant victory against a division rival.
“It’s a big win,” Granlund said. “These are going to be tight games the rest of the season, so we have to stack up these points here. We played pretty solid, pretty good defensively and [goaltender Juuse Saros] was outstanding in the net again… Every single point is huge right now.”
The Jets owned the first 10 minutes of the game and scored the contest’s first goal only 2:46 into regulation. But from that point on, Nashville was largely the better team. They tied the game late in the first with Nick Bonino’s 16th of the campaign, and Granlund notched the winning strike in OT.
“That was a really, really well played game by both teams,” Preds Head Coach John Hynes said. “Both goaltenders played well and made big stops when they needed to. Both teams competed hard, and there wasn’t a lot of free ice out there. But it was nice that we could find a way to win and get ourselves back up after how we felt we played [in a 3-0 loss to Vegas on] Saturday and get off to a good start in the road trip.”
Mason Appleton drove to the net and beat Saros less than three minutes into the contest, but that was all the Jets were able to muster. Late in the opening frame, Bonino took a feed from Rocco Grimaldi and one-timed a shot from the left circle past Connor Hellebuyck to even the score, 1-1, after 20 minutes.
Those numbers held through the second stanza, which included Saros stopping Patrik Laine on a penalty shot and Filip Forsberg ringing one off the pipe on a Nashville power play. Saros made 33 saves on the night for his eighth victory of the season.
“He’s been great all year, and it’s good to get him these wins,” Bonino said of Saros. “A lot of these games, especially for Juice, have gone either way, and he’s kept us in it and we’ve ended up losing. He deserves more wins than he has, and tonight, a penalty shot, huge save on Laine, and he was tracking the puck so well.”
The third period featured several breath-stealing moments, with both teams trading bids to break the deadlock. The 1-1 score held until the extra session, where the Predators began OT with a 3-on-2 chance and then held their advantage all the way until Mattias Ekholm hit Granlund across the zone for a one-timer goal.
“I just tried to shoot it, and I think I miss that shot quite a bit, but it still went in,” Granlund said. “Sometimes those shots are going in, and it was a big extra point for us, and we just move on to the next one.” “For the most part, it was a good effort,” Bonino said. “Again, our second period could have been a little bit better, but we didn’t give up much on the scoreboard, so that’s always good. We came into the third and did what we had to do to get the one point, and then a great play in overtime.”
The two points on Tuesday night helped the Predators leap the Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks. Nashville sits in the final spot outside of the playoffs and the two Wild Cards.
“Really, just embracing the grind and staying with it and staying focused,” Hynes said. “Not getting too low after a loss, not getting too high after a win, and just really understanding how we need to play this time of year and and trying to be really consistent with that. I think the more consistent you are in that, you’re going to give yourself an opportunity to get better results. Fortunately, we have and we have to continue with that mindset.”
Prior to Tuesday’s game, defenseman Ryan Ellis participated in the morning skate, the first time he’s been on the ice with his Preds teammates since he was injured on New Year’s Day. Ellis is not expected to play during the four-game trip, according to Head Coach John Hynes, but his appearance on Tuesday was another positive step.
Calle Jarnkrok (illness) missed his third-straight game. Yannick Weber and Austin Watson were also scratched for the Preds on Tuesday.
Nashville’s trip out west continues on Thursday night in Calgary (at 8 p.m. CT) when the Preds take on the Flames. Stops in Edmonton and Vancouver will also come over the next week before the group returns to Tennessee.