Swagger slumps in Winnipeg as Preds end Jets' home winning streak and take Game 4
Despite late goal by Laine, Jets fall 2-1 in Game 4
Winnipeg Jets fans did something they haven't done in more than two months — saw their team lose on home ice.
The 2-1 win by the Nashville Predators has deadlocked the Western Conference semifinal best-of-seven series 2-2.
Prior to that, Winnipeg hadn't lost a game at Bell MTS Place since Feb. 27. The team that beat them? Nashville by a 6-5 score.
"It's a bit of a disappointment," said Jeff Sichello. "I still think we've got a really good team. They just need to play their game and we'll come out on top."
Like her dad, nine-year-old Jadie was feeling glum but not giving up hope.
"I'm sad. I wish they won," she said. "I feel like they're going to win because the Jets are good."
The Jets had a chance to put the Preds — the NHL's best team in the regular season — on the ropes with a win Thursday in Game 4.
There was a lot of swagger in the strides of fans before the game started, and who could blame them?
More than anything, it was how the Jets won Game 3 that sent that confidence soaring.
Winnipeg spotted Nashville a 3-0 lead after the first period Tuesday but once they woke up, the Jets flexed their might.
They outshot the Preds 35-18 in the final two periods and outscored them 7-1.
"We're going to win tonight. We're absolutely going to win tonight," Sheila Hathaway said before Thursday's game.
She was so sure about the Jets' fortunes that she was carrying around a miniature Stanley Cup.
That swagger slumped by the second period, significantly.
The best scoring chance for the Jets was long gone in the rear view mirror by then. That one came early in the first, when Josh Morrissey swung around the right side of the Preds net as goalie Pekka Rinne had dropped to make a save on the left side.
The puck trickled past and Morrissey, who nearly overskated it, swatted a weak backhand at the empty net. But a sprawling Rinne kept it out with a desperate stab, blocking it with only the knob of his stick.
Maybe the late start left people feeling lethargic or maybe all the excitement had been spent on Tuesday when there was little down time between the rapid scoring outburst by the Jets.
But on Thursday, there were far fewer chants from the typically clever fans. A few "Go Jets Go" rants and some "refs you suck" was all they could muster.
In fact, there were long stretches of silence.
"Not our game, not our game at all. We were very flat, very flat, but you know what? Whiteout! We got this, we got this Jets," said Jackie Chomichuk outside the arena following the loss.
At one point in the third period, you could hear a lone voice yelling, "Here we go Je-ets, here we go," but no one else chimed in and the solo singer ended his act.
Even the boisterous boos for Preds pest P.K. Subban dwindled.
A goal in the last minute by Patrik Laine ended Rinne's shutout bid and gave the Jets fans something to cheer about but there was no epic comeback this time.
"I feel a little let down but I'm not too worried about it. It's just the way the puck went tonight," said Doug Ross. "They're still going to take it, so I'm not too worried. They're not going to lose two straight."
"We're not out of this. This is just one game," added Bruce Froebe. "We'll get them the next one, no problem."
Both Ross and Froebe expect the Jets to leave Preds fans feeling disappointed after Game 5 Saturday night in Nashville.
"They're going to get mean mad. It's revenge time for sure," Froebe said.
The series comes back to Winnipeg for Game 6 on Monday, another 8:30 p.m. CT start.