Predators get blasted by Jets in Game Five.

Story written by Mark Harris

The Nashville Predators were pathetic in Game Five on Saturday night. There really isn’t any other way to describe their efforts and the Winnipeg Jets took full advantage of the lackluster showing.

The Preds fell by a count of 6-2 as the series now turns back to Winnipeg on Monday with the Jets leading the series 3-2.

It was no secret that Friday night’s game was massive and heading into the contest one would think that the momentum would be on Nashville’s side. The Preds seemed to had found their stride and playing style in their Game Four win on Thursday night, but that same effort and style of play wasn’t even close to being there for Game Five.

What Nashville fans got in Game Five was nearly identical to what they saw in Game One when the Predators dominated the stat sheet, but walked away 4-1 losers.

The Predators were fantastic in the opening period out shooting the Jets 11-7 and creating 12 scoring chances while holding Winnipeg to just one. The score after the first frame was 0-0 however as Nashville couldn’t capitalize on any of its chances.

Just a few minutes into the second period the game felt different. It seemed as if the Predators were simply disinterested and assumed a goal would simply come their way after their strong first period. Instead the opportunistic Jets showed up in the middle frame and with three minutes left in the period Winnipeg held a 4-2 edge on the scoreboard.

Paul Stastny got the scoring going for the Jets before Yannick Weber tied it up 3:24 later, but then the Predators’ wheels completely fell off.

From not being able to clear the puck out of the zone, questionable passes, untimely mistakes along the boards and just a lack of defensive pressure, the Jets lit up Nashville for three straight goals in a 4:31 stretch sucking all the life out of Bridgestone Arena.

Ryan Johansen stopped the bleeding and made it 4-2 with a shorthanded goal late in the second period, but it didn’t spark what would have been an epic comeback.

Any thought of a comeback lasted just 28 seconds into the third period as well when Mark Scheifele beat Pekka Rinne to make it a 5-2 contest essentially sticking the fork in Nashville.

The brutal stretch of play sums up the Predators’ night for the most part, but allowing a goal 28 seconds into the third period of a 4-2 hockey game inside your own building is as head-scratching of a situation there is. If the tables were turned and Nashville gets a quick goal in the third it would have gotten the fans back in it and put all the pressure on the Jets, but instead Winnipeg simply walked in and took care of business as the Preds were in scramble mode for the majority of the night.

The Predators were so good defensively in Game Four – 48 hours prior – and all of that chemistry, confidence and overall determination just seemed to be so far beyond gone. Nashville looked like a completely different team compared to what was seen in Game Four and that shouldn’t be the case for the Presidents’ Trophy winning team.

P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis each finished the night with a -2 rating with only a combined two takeaways.

Mathieu Perreault gave the game its 6-2 scoreline 6:23 into the final frame which ultimately chased Rinne from the ice as the Preds turned to Juuse Saros in relief for the second time this series.

Fingers can’t be pointed at Rinne however. He would tell you that he wants all of those goals allowed back, but the Finn had little to no help out in front for the final 40 minutes of the contest. He was not the problem in Game Five and hasn’t been the problem all series, quite frankly.

The Predators must capitalize on their chances, because they’re creating plenty. On the flip side, they have to buckle down in their own zone which is a point no hockey writer on the planet would think they would emphasize when writing about Nashville’s incredibly deep and skilled blue line.

At the end of the night the Predators out shot the Jets 34-27 and out-chanced them 28-23 during 5-on-5 play, but the Jets walked out of the arena heading for their plane back to Winnipeg with a chance to eliminate the Predators on Monday in their own building.

Hockey fans are just like all other sports fans and after an ugly loss like that, they’re going to try and point the finger somewhere. Before all of that it is worth remembering that this Jets team is good, very good. They finished second in the league standings because they’re an incredibly talented bunch.

With that being said, I believe it’s time to start pointing the fingers at Nashville’s top-four defensemen. I’m excluding the bottom pairing because it simply doesn’t carry the weight the top-four does.

Sure, that was an entire team effort to get blasted like that on Saturday night, but where is the defense?

The Predators’ blue line is the best in the NHL when it’s clicking and nobody can argue with that. It’s clicked for one game in this second-round series and through now 11 postseason games this year, as a whole, it’s been average at it’s very best.

Nashville will need it to show up in Winnipeg on Monday night.

Game Six is set for 8:30 p.m. CST.

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