Perhaps just as big of a surprise are the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets came into their divisional contest against the Predators at Bridgestone Arena in third place in the division and 6-2-2 in their last 10 games.
Two teams that are playing good hockey and fairly evenly matched played the kind of game that one would have expected: a tight checking contest that limited scoring opportunities. The Predators made the most of their chances in capturing a 2-1 win over the Jets in front of a sellout crowd.
Both teams have rode hot goaltending so far this season, with Pekka Rinne and Ondrej Pavalec having outstanding seasons. Rinne entered the contest with 10 wins, a .929 save percentage, and a 1.92 GAA. Pavalec had almost identical numbers, with 7 wins, a .928 save percentage, and a 1.99 GAA.
Both goaltenders were solid and made good saves throughout the course of the game.
The Jets got on the board first with a short handed goal. With the Predators on the power play, Matt Cullen turned the puck over and Blake wheeler took advantage, beating Rinne over the glove to give the Jets a 1-0 lead at 6:57 of the second period.
The Predators looked to have tied the game on a Mike Ribeiro goal off a scramble in front of Pavalec, but the goal was waved off as the officials said the Predators had played the puck with a high stick before the goal.
Just 8 seconds after that goal was disallowed, James Neal lasered a shot past Pavalec to tie the game at 1 at 15:45.
In the third period, Craig Smith took a pass from Calle Jarnkrok and buried the game winner past Pavalec at 17:58.
The Predators were able to hold off the Jets in the remaining time to secure the win.
- Colin Wilson was back in the line up after missing two games with a lower body injury. He was on a re-shuffled line with Jarnkrok and Smith and I really liked the way that group played tonight. They played with purpose, especially Jarnkrok, have great speed, and are a threat offensively. I hope the coaching staff keeps that line together and lets them gel. I think they could develop into a very good line.
- I am coming around to the defense paring of Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis. Both show some good offensive instincts and rarely caught out of position defensively.
- Shea Weber and Roman Josi are just outstanding at shutting down the oppositions top scorers. They draw tough minutes and do an excellent job of taking the other teams forwards off their game.
- The Predators played very disciplined hockey tonight. They did not take a penalty in the game. In the last meeting with the Jets, the Predators were victimized by two power play goals.
- The Predators power play was absolutely putrid. A turnover on the power play led to the Jets only goal. In 8 minutes of power play time, the Predators did not register a shot on goal. This has to change and change quickly.
- That said, the Jets came into the game with the 5th best PK in the NHL. It showed tonight as they outworked the Predators and gave them no room.
- Pekka Rinne has never lost to the Jets, going 6-0-0 in his career.
- With this win, Peter Laviolette picked up his 400th career win. Congratulations, Coach!
The Predators are 11-4-2, good for 24 points and second in the Central behind the Blues, who have 25 points.
My three stars:
1. Craig Smith
2. James Neal
3. Pekka Rinne