Connor Hellebuyck loves what he’s seeing in his first NHL postseason Royce Freeman Jersey , and the 24-year-old goalie is doing his best to make sure the Winnipeg Jets do much more than just stick around.
Hellebuyck made 47 saves and the Jets beat the Nashville Predators 4-1 on Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal between the NHL’s top teams in the regular season.
”I love the intensity, I love the game in front of me,” Hellebuyck said about the playoffs. ”It’s awesome and a little different. Intense is the right way to put it.”
Not only did the teams top the standings, this series is the first between clubs with the most combined points ever before a conference finals after Nashville (117) edged Winnipeg (114) for the Presidents’ Trophy.
Both the Jets and Predators brought a Vezina finalist into this series. Hellebuyck outdueled veteran Pekka Rinne, who was pulled after the second period after giving up three goals on 16 shots. Hellebuyck, who finished off Minnesota with back-to-back shutouts, picked up where he left off a week ago.
Hellebuyck stretched his shutout streak to 163 minutes before Nashville finally scored. Coach Paul Maurice said the Jets weren’t at their best and can play better.
”But we pay our goaltender, too,” Maurice said.
Mark Scheifele scored two goals, including an empty-netter as the Jets were outshot 48-19. Brandon Tanev and Paul Stastny also scored to help the Jets – the NHL’s best home team in the regular season – steal home-ice advantage.
Kevin Fiala scored for the Predators, which had won 11 of their last 14 playoff games in Nashville. Several Predators said they thought this was perhaps their best game of the season, talk coach Peter Laviolette didn’t share.
”You give me two choices on where to be, our game or their win, I’d take the win Andy Dalton Jersey ,” Laviolette said. ”It’s about winning hockey games right now.”
The Predators had the sparkling pregame show with the retractable screen dropping from the ceiling and country star Dierks Bentley singing the U.S. anthem, and a couple catfish hit the ice before the puck drop to boot. Then they pelted Hellebuyck with 15 of the first 19 shots.
Then the Jets scored the game’s first goal for a sixth straight playoff game. Tanev’s wrister beat Rinne’s outstretched right skate at 14:51 of the first.
Nashville finished the period with 20 shots, a franchise postseason record for a period, with Hellebuyck continuing his shutout streak started with consecutive shutouts to finish off Minnesota in the first round.
”He was awesome,” Jets forward Blake Wheeler said about Hellebuyck. ”They were throwing everything at the net. What we were trying to do in front of him was just get bodies, get sticks, let him see things. You could tell early on if he was seeing the puck he was going to make the stops.”
The Predators kept shooting away with Hellebuyck making every save, and the Jets proved very opportunistic. Stastny scored off a rebound of Patrik Laine’s shot at 9:01 of the second on Winnipeg’s ninth shot for a 2-0 lead.
Filip Forsberg, Nashville’s postseason scoring leader, hit the post on the power play with 3:31 left. The Jets killed off the penalty, and Scheifele beat Rinne with a long shot with 2:09 left in the second for a 3-0 lead that silenced the sold-out crowd.
Fiala at least helped Nashville avoid being shut out with his wrister 1:23 into the third . Not even pulling backup goalie Juuse Saros with more than 2 minutes left helped.
”For us right now, there’s a few things we have to clean up, a couple of mistakes cost us, but bounces are going to happen in a hockey game DeMarcus Ware Jersey , that’s just the way it is,” Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban said. ”We’ll be ready to go on Sunday. Let’s do that for the rest of the series, we’re going to be a happy bunch at the end of it.
NOTES: Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis went to the locker room after being clipped on the cheek by the skate of Jets defenseman Ben Chiarot early in the third. … Austin Watson, who had seven points in the first round for Nashville, did not return after playing 4:09 of the first period. Laviolette said an update on Watson is expected Saturday.
Game 2 is Sunday night in Nashville.
The Washington Capitals will play for a Stanley Cup championship Thursday night for the first time in 43 NHL seasons. Alex Ovechkin is one win away from carving his name into history at the peak of his incredible hockey career.
With a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final and a city thousands of miles away thirsting for its first championship in a generation, the Vegas stakes are awfully high for the Caps in Game 5.
Ovi still wants his teammates thinking about the Golden Knights, not that silver trophy.
”To be honest, I think most of us have never been in this position,” said Ovechkin, who could become the first Russian captain to raise the Cup. ”For me personally, I don’t try to think about it too much what’s going on and just try focusing on different things. But it’s hard.”
Exactly what could distract an athlete of Ovechkin’s magnitude from the imminent chance to validate his place in his sport?
”Whatever. Cars. Hotels. You know, Vegas.”
Indeed, this desert is a strange place to end a drought. But with three chances to get one win, Ovechkin and his teammates want to seize their very first opportunity for the clincher on the Las Vegas ice.
With one more victory Torry Holt Jersey , Ovechkin would finally have team success to complement his formidable individual accomplishments. The vaunted goal-scorer can also succeed where a generation of Washington athletes have fallen short by leading the Capitals to their first title and the city’s first major pro sports championship in a quarter-century.
With his 33rd birthday looming in the fall, Ovechkin understands the opportunity before him and the magnitude of the situation for everyone who has ever worn the Capitals’ jersey.
It’s enough to tighten anybody’s grip on the stick, but the Caps didn’t appear overly tight during their workout or in the dressing room afterward.
”It’s a great time,” Ovechkin said Wednesday. ”Probably the best time in my life, hockey-wise. We just enjoy it together, this moment. It’s fun.”
Even with a commanding series lead, the Caps all spoke of the importance of consistency and seizing the moment after their light workout. Washington has a shockingly lengthy franchise history of playoff collapses, but these Caps promptly won all three potential closeout games in their first three playoff series this spring.
”Maybe because we’ve talked about it so much,” Caps defenseman John Carlson said. ”Guys are sick of hearing about it from the meetings. Sick of not getting it done. They all kind of blend together, but I think we have come out with great efforts every closing-out game, and we’re going to need a big one. This is a good team at home. It’s going to take a really good effort to get it done.”
The Caps don’t have the luxury of thinking about the minor disappointment of not being at home to secure Washington’s first championship in a major pro sport since the Redskins’ Super Bowl victory in January 1992. Back home in D.C., fans will be cheering on their team at Capital One Arena in a watch party that sold out in about 20 minutes.
”I think the history of the organization is definitely an important thing, but we’re focused on this group,” Washington’s Tom Wilson said. ”We’re focused on this year Mitchell Trubisky Jersey , and obviously once all is said and done or whatever happens, you can look back on it. We want to do it for the city. We want to do it for ourselves.”
So far in this series, the Caps have done just about everything well. Washington has scored 16 goals in four games against the reeling Golden Knights, whose charmed expansion season has run short of magic in three consecutive losses.
While the Caps focused on changing nothing from their last three efforts, the Golden Knights also don’t believe they need a wholesale change. Coach Gerard Gallant’s team is banking on the resilience of a group that hasn’t lost four consecutive games at any point in their utterly charmed inaugural season.
”It’s not the first adversity we’ve faced this year,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. ”You’d rather have the odds in your favor, but I’m thinking about (Game 5). If you start thinking that we have to win three games, sometimes it gets demoralizing. We’re just focused on the next one. … They’re in a better situation than us, that’s for sure. Stuff we’ve done this year has never been done, so I think that’s what we’re thinking about.”
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