WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Ryan Johansen says the Predators stopped skating after Nashville blew a three-goal lead on the way to losing 7-4 to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night.
Defenseman Ryan Ellis took it one step further.
“We stopped playing,” Ellis said of the 3-0 lead that vanished after the first period. “We didn’t play hard and they really turned it up. So that’s exactly what’s going to happen when one team quits playing and the other one turns it up.”
The victory gave the Jets a 2-1 lead in the second-round series. Game 4 is Thursday night in Winnipeg.
Nashville took the three-goal lead on 12 shots in the first period, which featured most of the 15,000 white-clad fans at Bell MTS Place booing each time Predators defenseman P.K. Subban had the puck.
They also chanted “Mr. Underwood” at forward Mike Fisher, who’s married to country music star Carrie Underwood.
But it was Fisher, Subban and Austin Watson who sparked their club to the lead, until Winnipeg replied with a big push-back in the second.
Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien scored the middle period’s second and fourth goals, getting the go-ahead score to make it 4-3 with 45 seconds left in the period.
“We stopped moving our legs,” Johansen said. “We did a lot of things poorly and they got better. Momentum swings in playoffs, they can be deadly.”
Predators forward Filip Forsberg scored his fifth goal of the playoffs at 7:40 of the third to tie it 4-4 with Winnipeg forward Jack Roslovic in the box for interference, but then Jets captain Blake Wheeler took over.
Wheeler scored two goals in the final five minutes, including a power-play goal and then an empty-netter with 51 seconds remaining. Brandon Tanev sealed it when he also sent the puck into the empty net with 31 seconds left for Winnipeg’s seventh goal.
“We got kicked in the teeth a little bit in the first (period) and our team has always responded well this year, whether it be a bad game or a bad period,” said Wheeler, who also had an assist.
“Our goal was just to win the second period and give ourselves a chance.”
Subban was in the penalty box for high sticking Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers when Wheeler scored the go-ahead 5-4 goal. Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne was also called for slashing forward Adam Lowry with 4 1/2 minutes left.
“I’m not going to comment on the officiating, but I’m standing at the faceoff, I get a shot in the back of the head five times or a shot in the shoulder and I’ve just got my stick on the ice,” Subban said.
“You know, I wonder if I do that, what happens? If I give (Jets center Mark) Scheifele a couple shots like that, I don’t know. But like I said, we’re not focused on that, that’s not the reason we lost the game. … We’re going to need to be a lot better next game.”
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