Jets clinch playoff spot with shoot-out win over Predators

AP, WINNIPEG, Manitoba

Tue, Mar 27, 2018 - Page 16

Captain Blake Wheeler was not certain at the beginning of the season if his Winnipeg Jets would contend for a playoff spot.

Now he has his answer.

Mark Scheifele on Sunday scored the only goal in a shoot-out as the Winnipeg Jets clinched a playoff spot with a 5-4 win over the Nashville Predators.

The Jets are in the post-season for the first time since 2014-2015 and just the second time since their move from Atlanta before the 2011-2012 season.

The franchise has not won a playoff series since 2006-2007.

“A lot of uncertainty coming into the year, where we were going to be,” said Wheeler, who has been with Winnipeg since the relocation. “I don’t think many people thought we were going to be where we are at, a playoff team. Every single guy in here has had a huge part in that. It’s a big moment for our team and for our organization.”

Jets rookie Kyle Connor scored a power-play goal and had two assists, giving him seven goals in six games.

That included a pair of overtime goals in Winnipeg’s previous two games and gives him 29 for the season.

That tied with Vancouver’s Brock Boeser for the rookie goal-scoring lead.

Boeser’s season ended on March 5 with a fracture in his lower back.

“He’s one of the single biggest reasons why we are where we are,” Wheeler said. “[Connor has] put up nearly 30 goals, and is a real impact player playing with Mark Scheifele and I. It’s quite a surprise.”

Dustin Byfuglien also scored on the power play, while Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler each added a goal and an assist for Winnipeg.

Kyle Turris, Ryan Ellis and Viktor Arvidsson each had a goal and an assist, while Roman Josi also scored for the Predators.

Nashville backup Juuse Saros stopped 43 shots as the defending Western Conference champions rested their Vezina Trophy candidate Pekka Rinne.

The clubs have combined for 41 goals in five meetings this season.

“There’s a lot of people shooting the puck out there. They got a lot of talent on their team,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “Our guys do a pretty good job scoring goals. I can’t explain it. Both teams have good goaltending. Both teams played pretty good defense, but offense seems to rule the day.”