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Predators win behind Neal’s OT goal

By Teresa M. Walker

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After his Finnish countryman scored on him once, Pekka Rinne was not going to let it happen again in overtime.

Rinne made a big save against Patrik Laine before James Neal scored 2:11 into the extra period to give the Nashville Predators a 5-4 victory over the slumping Winnipeg Jets on Monday night.

With the Predators on a power play, Neal made a head fake at the right faceoff dot and drifted toward the low slot before firing a wrist shot by Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck to the far side.

Neal’s goal was his 20th of the season. He has scored in consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 22-24.

“Of course when you score your confidence is going to rise,” Neal said. “When I wasn’t getting the chances, the shots or the looks, that’s when you have to go back and look at your game, and keep it simple. When you get the looks, you get the confidence and you know you’re going to score, just a matter of time. They do come in bunches and when you’re feeling it, you’re kind of in the zone and I felt good tonight.”

Just 12 seconds before Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien was whistled for hooking at 1:37 to set up Nashville’s game-winner, Rinne denied Laine on a breakaway from just outside the crease after Laine stickhandled through all three Predators skaters on the ice.

“It came kind of quickly, so I didn’t do anything fancy and just tried to find a hole,” Laine said. “I was too close to the goalie and obviously, he’s one of the best goalies in the league, so he knew what I was going to do and he got it.”

Rinne finished with 30 saves.

“He had all the momentum after dangling those guys,” Rinne said. “He’s an impressive young player. I’m very happy for him, especially since he’s a Finn. When he came down, I think at that point you just wait for his move. This time I was able to make the save. He got one by me in the second period, so I wasn’t happy about that.”

Austin Watson, Mike Fisher, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen also scored for Nashville in its second consecutive win.

Blake Wheeler, Byfuglien, Laine and Joel Armia scored for Winnipeg, which has lost four straight. Hellebuyck made 37 saves.