Predators throw away early lead in Game Three loss to Jets.

Story written by Mark Harris

The Nashville Predators led the Winnipeg Jets 3-0 through the first 22:38 of play of Game Three on Tuesday night. It seemed as if the Presidents’ Trophy winning Predators had full control of Winnipeg, but that assumption was wrong.

The Jets took Game Three by a final score of 7-4 earning themselves a 2-1 series lead as the Predators turned into an undisciplined team down the stretch.

Nashville fans could not have asked for a better start on Tuesday night. Mike Fisher got the scoring going with a gritty goal out in front which was then followed up by a P.K. Subban power play goal that silenced the Winnipeg faithful. Following the Subban tally, Austin Watson’s goal with just over three minutes left in the opening period let every bit of air out of Bell MTS Place.

Only one period of hockey was played up to that point.

Paul Stastny got the Jets on the board early in the second period and what ensued after his lighting of the lamp would be best described as chaos and the changing point of the whole game.

With 15:29 left in the middle frame Austin Watson decided to land a check on Blake Wheeler:

He was sent to the penalty box for charging on the play despite the fact that he took only three strides and appeared to be going after the puck. Mark Scheifele went to the box as well for roughing on Watson after the hit thinking it was a dirty one, but after watching it back it looks more and more like a shoulder-to-shoulder blow.

Questionable call No. 1 bit the Preds as the Jets tied things up with two goals in a span of 18 seconds during the 4-on-4 situation.

Could Watson have simply not gone for this body check? Absolutely, but if there is a situation to get physical, Watson is going to take it. On the flip side, the referee could’ve swallowed his whistle on what looked to be a 50-50 call.

The Jets then took the lead with 45 seconds remaining in the second frame courtesy of Dustin Byfuglien’s second goal of the night. The call on Watson was questionable, but the play from the Predators was not; it was bad. Nashville went one stretch of 11:11 without a shot on net and was out shot 16-6 in the middle frame.

Through two periods of play the Predators had two minor penalties to their name. That number isn’t a backbreaker, but taking three penalties in the final eight minutes of a tie game certainly is and that’s exactly what Nashville did.

Filip Forsberg knotted things up at 4-4 with a power play goal 7:40 into the third period, but all was downhill from there.

Kevin Fiala took a bad tripping penalty 11:54 into the period, but the Predators’ penalty kill came up big. Nashville immediately played with fire again as Subban was called for a high stick seven seconds after the Fiala penalty expired.

Some fans may have screamed for an embellishment call on the play from Ehlers, but a high-stick is a high-stick. It was an atrocious penalty to take.

The Jets’ power play cashed in on the man advantage this time around, but not without controversy.

Just before Wheeler pushed home a rebound for what was the game winning goal, Pekka Rinne took a shot up high off the mask that knocked his strap loose. The Finn was clearly signaling to the officials for a stoppage, but wasn’t given one.

Rinne could have thrown his mask off to stop play, but may have been whistled for a minor penalty. As loud as that building was there was no chance anyone could have heard him yelling for a stoppage due to his strap being knocked loose.

He took out his frustrations seconds later and slashed Adam Lowry with 4:29 left in regulation. That’s not the ideal move from your veteran netminder with your team trailing by one at that point of the game.

It’s tough to win a hockey game or even push a 4-4 game to overtime when for six of the final 11:54 of action you’re playing a man down, but that’s the situation Nashville got itself in.

Winnipeg’s final two goals were scored on an empty net.

After dominating the opening 20 minutes of play the Predators were out shot 35-18 in the final two periods, were out-chanced 21-12 during 5-on-5 play and handed Winnipeg four power play chances. There wasn’t a positive from a Nashville standpoint during the final 40 minutes of action outside of Forsberg’s power play tally.

Maybe some fans will point fingers at the officiating, but the real finger pointing needs to be done at the lack of discipline from the Predators on Tuesday night which flipped the game on its head in favor of the Jets.

The Predators had a 3-0 lead into the second period and lost the game 7-4. Sure, there were factors that played a part in all of it, but Nashville gave away that game in horrific fashion.

Game Four between the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets is set for Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. CST in Winnipeg.

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