WINNIPEG – The Vegas Golden Knights are back on equal footing with the Winnipeg Jets thanks to a victory in game two of the Western Conference Final.
The Golden Knights bounced back from a game one defeat with a 3-1 win over the Jets on Monday at Bell MTS Place. The best-of-seven series is now tied at one game apiece.
“They weren’t good enough last game,” Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant said. “And they knew that, and they had to respond tonight, and they did in a big way.”
The Jets had another strong start to the game, but the Golden Knights scored back to back goals to end the first period and the Jets just couldn’t get the momentum back from a much better looking Golden Knights squad.
“They were better for sure.” head coach Paul Maurice said. “We got a couple of posts on us and we were not right. It didn’t hold but it didn’t cost us, but certainly there’s a 10 minute block there we’re not going to like very much tomorrow.”
Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Marchessault scored in the first period to give the Knights the lead for good. Marchessault added his second goal of the game in the third period to help secure the win for Vegas.
“Definitely satisfied with our effort tonight.” Marchessault said. “Every time we’ve needed a big game out of our group and we show up. Tonight we definitely showed up. I think we showed the hockey world that we own the right to be here, and we’re able to play against a great team.”
Kyle Connor scored the Jets’ lone goal in the loss. The Jets looked out of sync for the most part and didn’t generate a whole lot of scoring chances after the first period.
“We were chasing the game again.” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said.
“Down two goals just made it tough. It didn’t feel like playing against Nashville, but those guys do a good job in their own right. We just couldn’t get any momentum going.”
The Jets outshot Vegas 31-28 as Connor Hellebuyck made 25 saves.
WATCH: Game 2 Post Game Reaction
Just like in the series opener the Jets came out flying. Just 30 seconds into the game Mark Scheifele got the puck under Marc-Andre Fleury but it was swept away at the last possible moment. And only a minute later Nikolaj Ehlers hit the goal post as the Jets were swarming in the early going.
The momentum began to swing in the Knights’ favour as the period wore on. With around six minutes left in the first period, Paul Stastny was stripped of the puck in his own end. The Golden Knights worked the puck around to Tatar and after being denied on the first try, he tucked in the loose puck under Hellebuyck for his first goal of the playoffs. Shea Theodore and Ryan Carpenter had the assists and the Golden Knights had a one goal lead.
With just under three minutes to go in the period, Connor turned the puck over in the neutral zone as the Jets defence was changing lines. Marchessault had a clear lane to the net and he made no mistake as he beat Hellebuyck for the Knights’ second goal. Reilly Smith had the only assist on Marchessault’s fifth goal of the post-season. The shots were 13-11 for Vegas in the first frame.
Neither team found the net in the middle stanza where the Jets outshot the Knights 8-7.
With 12:43 left in regulation time Connor brought the building back to life. From a sharp angle Connor beat Fleury on the powerplay for his third goal of the playoffs. It was assisted by Ehlers and Tyler Myers and the Jets were within a single goal.
But just a little over a minute later the Knights silenced the crowd again. Smith sent the puck in front for a wide open Marchessault and he deposited the backhand for his second goal of the game. William Karlsson had the other assist to restore the Knights’ two goal lead as they hung on for a 3-1 win.
The Jets used the exact same lineup as in game one. The series now shifts to Las Vegas for the next two contests with game three scheduled for Wednesday. The opening face-off is set for 8:00 pm CT.
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