WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Kyle Connor had his first NHL hat trick and added an assist, Connor Hellebuyck made 33 saves for his second shutout of the season and the Winnipeg Jets clinched a playoff spot with a 5-0 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.
Pekka Rinne stopped 38 shots for the Predators, who are in second place in the Central Division, four points back of the Jets.
Winnipeg made some lineup changes for the game, slotting Nikolaj Ehlers on the left wing with center Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, and bumping Patrik Laine down to the right side of the second line with Hayes and Connor.
The Jets were starting a four-game homestand and are 5-1-0 in their past six games. They won the season series with the Predators 3-1.
Nashville was beginning a three-game road trip and is 3-2-1 in its past six games.
The teams developed an intense rivalry last season, when the Jets defeated the Predators in Game 7 of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
After a fast-paced, scoreless first period, Winnipeg mounted a 3-0 lead in the second.
Nashville appeared to get the game’s first goal three minutes into the second with a deflected shot by Calle Jarnkrok, but it was disallowed after review for Jarnkrok’s high stick.
Connor scored his 30th goal of the season after he took a pass from Hayes, raced down the ice and got around Predators defenseman P.K. Subban in the slot before flipping a backhand shot by Rinne at 4:42. It also marked a career-high 58 points for Connor.
Copp made it 2-0 at 14:16 on a second opportunity. He whiffed on an attempt to put a rebound into an open side of the net, but got the puck behind the goal-line and sent a shot that bounced in off a standing Rinne.
Hayes, acquired by the Jets from the New York Rangers at the trade deadline, stretched the lead after spinning around by the boards and firing a shot that got between Rinne and a post.
Both teams kept up the pace in the third period, with Rinne robbing Wheeler on a shot.
Connor notched his second goal with 4:38 remaining in the period, and completed the hat trick with 9 seconds left.