Jim Diamond, The Canadian Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Winnipeg played a better game, but the result they desired didn’t follow.
Kevin Fiala scored at 5:37 of the second overtime to give the Nashville Predators a 5-4 victory over the Jets in Game 2 Sunday, evening their Western Conference semifinal series at one game apiece.
The series shifts to Winnipeg next week for Games 3 and 4. The Jets won Game 1 on Friday in Nashville 4-1.
“It’s a sucky way to lose, but we played a better game tonight than we did on Friday,” said Winnipeg forward Mark Scheifele, who scored twice and added an assist to lead the Jets offence. “That’s a positive.
“We can be upset for 10 minutes and then after that, we’ve got to get our rest and then get ready for Tuesday.”
In the second extra frame, Craig Smith carried the puck into the Winnipeg zone on the right side. He sent a saucer pass to Fiala skating through the slot, where he beat Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck with a backhand.
“I saw 2-against-1, me and Smitty,” Fiala said. “Great play by Kyle (Turris) to chip it (forward). I was just hoping for a pass from him. He saw me, I just made a move and buried it.”
Ryan Johansen scored twice for Nashville and Viktor Arvidsson and P.K. Subban had one goal each.
Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and an assist and Brandon Tanev also scored for the Jets.
Scheifele has posted multiple points in four consecutive playoff games. Paul Martin, with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014, was the last NHL player to do that.
With Nashville up a goal late in the third, and Hellebuyck pulled for an extra attacker, Scheifele’s one-timer from the left circle beat Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne on the short side to tie the game and send it to overtime. Earlier in the shift, Scheifele had a good look from the slot but rang the left post with his shot.
“It’s an important process for us to go through having lost an overtime game,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “Now we’ve got to rebound because all of the emotion that goes into tying it late, feeling good about that, losing in double overtime, now you’ve got to rebound.”
Hellebuyck made 36 saves while Rinne stopped 46 shots.
The Jets had a difficult time containing Nashville’s top line of Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Arvidsson, which accounted for eight points in the game.
“They were awesome,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “Talking with them yesterday, I think you could sense that they wanted a little bit more.”
Despite the loss, Jets centre Paul Stastny said earning a split in Nashville is a positive for the Jets.
“That’s the way we look at it,” he said. “This is a tough building. They always play well here. So to come out with a split is big. We do everything we can to recover and get ready for the next one.”
Johansen scored the game’s first goal just 27 seconds into the opening period. With fans inside Bridgestone Arena still buzzing from Carrie Underwood’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Forsberg found Johansen in the slot, where he fired a wrist shot high to Hellebuyck’s glove side.
Winnipeg had scored first in each of its first six playoff games before Sunday.
Byfuglien tied it for the Jets at 12:47. With the teams staking 4-on-4, Byfuglien skated in from the left circle before beating Rinne with a wrist shot between the pads.
Scheifele gave the Jets a 2-1 lead 29 seconds later on the power play. Behind the Nashville net, Stastny sent a backhand pass to Scheifele on the right side for a quick wrist shot over a sliding Rinne.
Subban answered with a power-play goal at 5:04 of the second on a one-timer from the high slot through traffic.
Arvidsson’s slap shot from the right faceoff dot at 18:41 of the second beat Hellebuyck on the short side to give Nashville a 3-2 lead.
Tanev briefly tied the game at 5:11 of the third with a wrist shot from the slot that deflected off Subban’s stick and beat Rinne low to the stick side.
Nashville regained the lead 34 seconds later when Johansen danced around Toby Enstrom in the left circle before beating Hellebuyck with a wrist shot on the short side for his second of the game.