WINNIPEG – It might have only been pre-season, but for Nashville’s Cal O’Reilly, Friday’s pre-season game had distinct post-season feel.
“It was like a playoff game out there, it was fun to play,” O’Reilly said after scoring in regulation and adding the only goal in the shootout as the Predators beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2. “The energy the crowd brings really picks up the intensity.”
David Legwand had the other goal for Nashville, while Andrew Ladd and Mark Scheifele replied for Winnipeg.
The more seasoned Predators (6-1-0) controlled the first period, with O’Reilly opening the scoring when he banged in a rebound off Jordin Tootoo’s slapshot from the point.
The second period got off to a rough start when Winnipeg’s Tanner Glass and Nashville’s Zack Stortini dropped their gloves.
But it was Winnipeg (3-3-1) that came to life after the fight, outshooting the Predators 16-3 as Ladd tied things by flipping in Bryan Little’s backhander home after it bounced away from Nashville netminder Anders Lindback.
Legwand took advantage of a slashing penalty handed to Scheifele to score the Predators’ go-ahead goal at 7:28 of the third period.
Scheifele made up for it at 13:07 when he tied the game with his fourth goal of the pre-season.
Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said he’s pleased at the play of his 18-year-old draft pick and it’s now a matter of doing a deal with his agent to get him permanently in a Jets’ jersey.
“These things get worked out,” he said. “I absolutely love the kid and I think our whole organization does.”
“He’s an excellent player … It’s his mind that’s so sharp.”
A crossbar kept Scheifele from scoring twice Friday night and giving Winnipeg its fourth win of the pre-season campaign, the first for the former Nashville Predators in their new home at the MTS Centre.
Like all games for the next three years, Friday night’s was a sellout and the crowd was in the game from the start.
The number of shirts and signs bearing Scheifele’s name shows the young player from the Barrie Colts of the OHL is already a fan favourite, not surprising considering the team-leading four goals he has scored in the exhibition series.
“He looks like a guy that’s been in the league a long time out there, just the way he handles the puck with patience and poise,” said Little.
Notes: The Predators have some strong connections to Manitoba’s capital. … Nashville coach Barry Trotz is a Winnipeg native. … It was also a home game of sorts for Colin Wilson, who was raised in Winnipeg, and Tootoo, who was born in Churchill, Man., and played for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL.
Note to readers: This a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly stated Jordin Tootoo was born in Winnipeg. He was born in Churchill, Man.