Connor Hellebuyck makes 42 saves; Jets beat Predators to snap five-game skid

By The Canadian Press
November 27, 2016 - 1:00pm

WINNIPEG — It was the kind of rebound game Connor Hellebuyck and his teammates needed.

The Jets goaltender made a season-high 42 saves Sunday afternoon as Winnipeg ended a five-game losing skid with a 3-0 victory over the Nashville Predators.

Hellebuyck's second shutout of the season, and fourth of his career, came after he was in net Friday for Winnipeg's 5-1 loss to the Predators in Nashville.

"I think it's extremely important," Hellebuyck said of having a big game. "It gets the morale and character back in the room and we can start building some confidence now. I don't think anybody is hitting the panic button. We just needed to get back to our game and that's what we did tonight."

Drew Stafford scored his first goal of the season and Mark Scheifele and Adam Lowry added empty-net goals for the Jets (10-12-2). Defenceman Jacob Trouba had two assists.

"Sometimes to break out of the slump, you know you just kind of need to have your goalie make 40 saves and then gut it out," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said.

Rookie goaltender Juuse Saros stopped 21-of-22 shots for the Predators (10-8-3).

The loss halted Nashville's win streak at three games and also bumped its poor road record to 2-7-2.

Saros, a 21-year-old from Finland, was called up from Milwaukee of the American Hockey League to relieve veteran Pekka Rinne. He played his second game this season and third of his career.

"He was great," Predators centre Ryan Johansen said of Saros. "The only goal they had was they skated behind our net, bounced it off his back and (the puck) barely crossed the goal line."

He also praised Hellebuyck.

"I thought he was fantastic," Johansen said of Hellebuyck. "The way their team has been playing, at home with a lot of pressure on, especially us beating them in Nashville with five goals, he deserves a lot of credit tonight. He played a great game."

The victory extended Winnipeg's home victories to four straight (7-4-0).

Nashville had scored three power-play goals against the Jets in Friday's win, but were 0 for 5 on Sunday. Winnipeg was 0 for 4.

Predators coach Peter Laviolette called Saros's play "outstanding" and said a spell of not controlling the play in the second period was costly for his team.

"Plenty of chances. Just couldn't seem to score, couldn't get it done," he said.

Stafford, who missed 15 games with an injury this season, scored his first with a wraparound at 15:21 of the second period.

The Jets are 7-0 when leading after two periods this season.

Scheifele scored his 12th goal of the season, tying him with teammate Patrik Laine, with 42 seconds left. Lowry got his sixth with 10 seconds remaining.

Nashville fired 11 shots during two power plays in the third period, but couldn't beat Hellebuyck.

"Just lately I've been feeling in that groove," Hellebuyck said. "I've liked the way I've been playing.

"Although they scored five goals last game, I still like the way I feel and I'm not losing my confidence from a goal here or there. I could see everything tonight and I had a little luck, too. Sometimes the puck just hits you."

Jets coach Paul Maurice said everyone contributed and Hellebuyck stood out.

"Real good goaltending tonight and lots and lots of effort," Maurice said. "Twenty-seven blocked shots.

"I don't think things were smooth or easy at times with the puck, but usually a real hard effort and really good goaltending, you're going to give yourself a chance."

Judy Owen, The Canadian Press

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