WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Jets grabbed the early series lead in the Western Conference Final.
The Jets scored three goals in the first eight minutes and skated to a 4-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday at Bell MTS Place.
Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and an assist in addition to his usual physical play.
“He’s awesome.” Mark Scheifele said. “He’s been awesome for us all playoffs. He does it all for us. He kills penalties, he’s on the powerplay. He does so many good things each and every shift that a lot of people don’t notice.”
“We didn’t have much of a rest.” Byfuglien said. “We’re still in game mode. It was just a matter of coming out and playing our game and keeping it simple. I felt that we got in moving our feet right away, the ice opened up so we got to move the puck easily”.
Scheifele also had a goal and a helper while Patrik Laine and Joel Armia chipped in with the other markers in the game one triumph.
The Jets held the high flying Golden Knights to just 21 shots on goal in game one.
WATCH: Jets fans celebrate game 1 victory
“We came back well.” Blake Wheeler said. “We knew their team speed is pretty intimidating, so the key with that, and we have some fast players too, is you want to try to limit their time and space.”
Wheeler had three assists in the series opener.
“He’s an every shift guy.” head coach Paul Maurice said. “Without saying a word, because of the way he plays, he holds everyone to a standard.”
Connor Hellebuyck made 19 saves and gave credit to the rowdy fans in the building.
“Did you enjoy yourself?” Hellebuyck asked. “Our crowd is awesome. They’re so loud and that helps us carry so much momentum. They are a big factor in this.”
Brayden McNabb and William Karlsson replied for the Golden Knights in the loss.
It was a quick start for the Jets who scored on just their second shot on goal of the hockey game. Just 65 seconds into the game Scheifele raced into the Knights zone and left the puck for Byfuglien and he hammered home the slap shot behind Marc-Andre Fleury for his fifth goal of the playoffs. Blake Wheeler had the other assist and the Jets had the first goal of the series.
The Jets capitalized on the powerplay just a short time later. Wheeler threaded in a perfect pass and Laine buried the one-timer upstairs on Fleury. Laine’s fourth goal of the playoffs was also assisted by Paul Stastny and the Jets had a two goal cushion.
Only 46 seconds later the puck once again ended up behind Fleury. The puck ricocheted off Armia’s skate and into the Knights’ goal. The referee immediately waived off the goal for goalie interference but after a coaches challenge, the call on the ice was reversed, and the Jets were awarded their third goal of the game. Armia’s second goal of the playoffs was assisted by Ben Chiarot and it was 3-0.
WATCH: ‘Playing our game and keeping it simple’: Dustin Byfulien on Game 1 win
The Knights answered right back only 35 seconds later. Defenceman Brayden McNabb found the net for the Knights’ first goal of the series. Reilly Smith had the only assist on McNabb’s second tally of the playoffs and it was 3-1 after one period. The shots were 12-6 in favour of Winnipeg.
The Jets powerplay struck again midway thru the second period. Byfuglien’s long shot was tipped in by Scheifele for his NHL leading 12th goal of the post-season. Wheeler grabbed the other assist and it was a three goal Jets’ lead.
The Golden Knights made good on the man advantage late in period two. Jonathan Marchessault threw the puck towards the net and Karlsson re-directed the puck past Connor Hellebuyck. His fifth goal of the post-season was also assisted by Shea Theodore and it was 4-2 after two periods.
Toby Enstrom left the game in the second period with a injury but returned to the game to start the final frame.
Defenceman Dmitry Kulikov was the only Jets’ players to miss the game with an injury. Matt Hendricks, Tucker Poolman, Shawn Matthias, Jack Roslovic, Marko Dano, Joe Morrow and Michael Hutchinson were all healthy scratches.
Game two of the series is scheduled for Monday starting at 7:00 pm CT at Bell MTS Place.
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