By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets managed to put a crushing double-overtime loss in the rearview mirror.
Now they’re hoping to do the same following a stunning comeback win.
The Jets lead their second-round playoff series with the Nashville Predators 2-1 after picking up a dramatic 7-4 victory in Tuesday’s Game 3 despite trailing 3-0 after the first period.
Winnipeg stormed back with four goals — including three in under three minutes — at a deafening Bell MTS Place in the second. The Predators tied things 4-4 on a power play in the third, but the Jets got a late winner on a man advantage of their own before sealing it with two empty-net goals.
And much like the response to Nashville’s 5-4 double OT win in Game 2 that evened the Western Conference semfinal 1-1, Winnipeg is hoping to park that emotional night and move forward.
“That’s kind of been the theme we’ve been trying to talk about throughout the playoffs,” Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey said Wednesday. “Momentum doesn’t really carry over from game to game.
“Every night it’s a new battle.”
For many of the untested Jets, Tuesday showed things can change fast in playoff hockey with Game 4 set for Thursday.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter if you’re down 3-0 after the first, you can still win the game,” said Winnipeg sniper Patrik Laine, who has yet to score in the series. “Momentum is going to change many times during the game and there are a lot of things that can happen.
“Just to remember to stay with it and play your game for 60 minutes and you’ll always have a chance to win.”
The Predators, meanwhile, will be looking to draw on the experience of making it to last season’s Stanley Cup final as a way to recover from the shock of blowing that big lead.
“There’s nothing we haven’t seen,” Nashville centre Ryan Johansen said. “Our focus is just on winning that next game, and then it’s a best-of-three with two games in our building. We have a great opportunity (Thursday) to win a huge hockey game.
“We need to come out with a great start again, and just play better with the lead.”
The 20 goals combined by the teams through the past two games would usually indicate Vezina Trophy nominees Connor Hellebuyck of Winnipeg and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne have struggled.
But that hasn’t been the case — save for perhaps two of the three goals Hellebuyck allowed in the first period of Game 3 — with the teams willing to push the pace, sometimes at the expense of defensive structure at the other end.
“The goalies are still playing well, making unbelievable saves,” Jets centre Bryan Little said. “There is a ton of skill on both teams, and the ability to score goals is really significant in this series.”
Little is certainly right about that.
Winnipeg finished second during the regular season with 273 goals for, while Nashville was 12 back in a tie for seventh. The teams combined for 41 goals in five meetings in 2017-18, with a 3-1 Jets’ win in March the only game that didn’t see at least eight goals.
“This series isn’t fun for a goalie,” said Hellebuyck, who stopped Victor Arvidsson on a breakaway with the scored tied 4-4 in Game 3. “I just have to play better than the guy across from me. We’re a great team. We have all the aspects. If we have to win a game 10-9, we might as well. I’m OK with that.
“Hurts the stats a bit, but at the end of the day, especially at this time of year, the wins are all that matter.”
The two best teams in the NHL during the regular season — Nashville was first with 117 points, four better than Winnipeg — haven’t disappointed yet in terms of entertainment value, and there’s no reason to expect anything different Thursday in a series that has already seen its share of twists.
“There’s no quit in either of our games, and that’s what we like about this series,” Hellebuyck said. “The NHL’s getting everything they want — a lot of offence and a very exciting game to watch.”