By Jim Bender, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg Jets centre Adam Lowry figured that teammate Kyle Connor would bounce back from having his first 10 shots stopped.
Connor scored the game-winning goal 3:31 into overtime to lift the Jets to a 2-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
“I think, even early on in the year, he was a little snakebit, but he was getting seven, eight chances, real good chances to score,” said Lowry, who assisted on the winner. “You had the feeling that eventually, one of those is gonna go in.”
“Tonight, even last game, I feel like he had a lot of great looks. … Those goal scorers, they do so much to generate those chances, they’re bound to go in. It’s nice to see him get rewarded. He’s been playing fantastic and generating a lot of those chances for us.”
Predators goaltender Juuse Saros, who made an impressive 39 saves, got a piece of Connor’s shot, but it trickled through.
“Give their goalie a lot of credit because he made a lot of very big and timely saves for them,” said Jets coach Rick Bowness. “But he’s (Connor) got one of the best releases in the league, so just keep shooting, man.”
Dylan DeMelo added the other for Winnipeg (19-9-1), which snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 11-5-0 at home. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 25 shots before 13,949 fans at Canada Life Centre.
“Obviously happy to contribute where I can,” said DeMelo. “Happy to get that opportunity four-on-four. Gotta get to that net-front, I guess. That’s where all the goals are scored.”
Filip Forsberg scored the lone goal for Nashville (12-12-4). The Predators dropped their fifth in a row (0-3-2), and have not won since Dec. 2.
“(Saros) gave us the chance to win the hockey game,” said Predators centre Mikael Granlund. “We have two really good goalies and they are going to give us the chance to win every night. Obviously, it’s disappointing we didn’t get the two points for Juice with the way he played tonight.
“At the same time, we got something out of this game, and we’ve got to live with that.”
After going into the first intermission tied at 1-1, neither side got a puck through in the second and third periods.
Midway through the third, Hellebuyck stopped Cody Glass on a partial breakaway on one of 11 shots he faced in the frame.
Winnipeg outshot Nashville 19-8 in the second as both goaltenders came up big on a number of strong scoring chances.
Hellebuyck made a quick stop on an attempted tip-in off a pass from Matt Duchene. Hellebuyck also stopped Cole Smith on a partial breakaway with the Predators on the man advantage.
Saros grabbed a rebound off a point shot from Brenden Dillon out of the air with two Jets on his doorstep during a power play. Saros also stopped a snap shot from Connor from in close.
“He made a lot of good saves tonight,” said Nashville coach John Hynes. “It was a battle where we got one point, we’ve got to find a way to get two.”
DeMelo knotted the score 15:24 into the opening period with his first of the season. After falling to the ice, he slid the puck in off a centring pass from Connor.
The Predators opened the scoring 9:04 into the first with their first shot on goal. Forsberg capped off a pretty passing play, beating Hellebuyck from the left faceoff circle.
JETS’ INJURY WOES
Jets defenceman Nate Schmidt took a hard hit from Predators forward Tanner Jeannot late in the first period and had to be helped off the ice, and was ruled out of the game. He went to concussion protocol, Jets coach Rick Bowness said.
Winnipeg forward Blake Wheeler took a wicked shot from the point by teammate Josh Morrissey midway through the second. Wheeler left the ice on his own in obvious pain and did not return until the third period.
Predators captain Roman Josi had scored 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in his last 20 games heading into Thursday’s game. With 565 points, he still needs one more to tie David Legwand for the most points in franchise history (566) and two points to pass him. Josi also played his 787 career-NHL game against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, the most ever by a Swiss-born player.
Jets: Will play the first of a two-game road trip in Vancouver against the Canucks on Saturday.
Predators: Will play against the Avalanche in Colorado on Saturday.