By Jim Diamond
At 8:33 of the third period of Thursday night’s game against the visiting Winnipeg Jets, Predators defenseman Victor Bartley was whistled for an interference minor. 29 seconds later, at 9:02, fellow blueliner Shea Weber was sent off for cross-checking, giving the Jets a lengthy two-man advantage of 1:31.
The old adage is that a goaltender is a team’s best penalty killer, but the effort displayed by the two defensemen and two forwards used on that PK was more than impressive in support of Pekka Rinne.
It is fairly customary for teams down two players to use a one forward and two defensemen formation, and that is exactly what Nashville head coach Peter Laviolette did in sending out Mike Fisher up front and Seth Jones and Roman Josi on defense.
After one shot on goal and two more attempts blocked, Gaustad was able to get off in favor of Mike Fisher at 9:48, but Jones and Josi were unable to change. Fisher did his part in the penalty kill, recording three consecutive blocked shots on Winnipeg’s hulking defenseman Dustin Byfuglien in the span of 21 seconds.
“That was a huge kill,” Jones said. “Just try to get in some shot lanes and Mike, and Goose, and Jos did a great job as well getting in shot lanes. We didn’t give them really anything, and Pekks made a huge save there in the crease as well.”
Josi, who started his shift after the Bartley penalty at 8:33, came off at 10:35 after Rinne stopped and covered a shot from Andrew Ladd. The shift of 2:02 was just the third-longest of the night for Josi, who also clocked shifts of 3:04 and 2:13 in the game en route to a game-high 28:00 of ice time.
“Fish had a couple of great blocks and we just tried to take the passing lanes away and obviously Pekks in net made a couple of huge saves,” Josi said. “You obviously try to talk a little bit, but it happens pretty fast on the 5-on-3, so you just try to read off each other, try to read off the forward too. Pekks has the shots and we just try to take the passing lanes away.”
Jones’ shift finally ended at 11:06, a lengthy 2:06 from start to finish. With injuries to Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm, Jones has inherited much more ice time lately.
“He’s getting an opportunity now with the injuries,” Laviolette said. “He’s got one of those endless oxygen tanks that seems like he could stay out there for two minutes, he could stay out there for a long time, one of those guys that can take on a lot of minutes.
“He’s played great, but now in an expanded role, you really get to see who he is. I’m sure he’s loving it.”
Longs shifts are one thing but penalty-killing shifts that exceed two minutes are exhausting. The young duo of Josi and Jones battled through their long shifts and helped preserve Nashville’s fourth consecutive win.