John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP
Published Saturday, May 12, 2018 | 3:48 p.m.
Updated Saturday, May 12, 2018 | 6:57 p.m.
WINNIPEG — For the first time ever the Golden Knights trail in a best of seven playoff series.
Fueled by a hot start, the Jets topped Vegas 4-2 Saturday night in Winnipeg to claim a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.
Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien opened the scoring only 1:05 into the game with a blistering slap shot in transition that eluded Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Jets took a commanding 3-0 lead with first-period goals by Patrick Laine and Joel Armia before the Golden Knights finally got on the board.
Brayden McNabb’s hard wrist shot snuck its way past Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck to make it 3-1 after one period.
The Jets added to their lead in the second with a power play goal from Mark Scheifele, but William Karlsson would answer with a power play goal of his own to close the deficit to 4-2 after 40 minutes of hockey.
Winnipeg improved to 51-1-1 this season when entering the final period with a lead by closing the Golden Knights out in impressive fashion. Vegas managed only 20 shots on goal in the entire game, and seven in the third period.
Jets lead 4-2 after two periods
The Jets hold a 4-2 lead over the Golden Knights entering the third period of game one of the Western Conference Finals.
Mark Scheifele redirected a shot from defenseman Dustin Byfuglien past Fleury for his 12th goal of the playoffs with 10:06 left in the second period. It was the Jets’ second power play goal of the game after Brayden McNabb was sent to the box for cross-checking, and gave Winnipeg a 4-1 lead.
The Golden Knights closed the gap back to two when William Karlsson netted his fifth goal of the playoffs, also on the power play. Jonathan Marchessault fed Karlsson a pass from the point, and Vegas’ leading goal scorer of the playoffs calmly tapped the puck through Connor Hellebuyck.
Vegas has created almost no offense during 5-on-5 play, mustering only 13 shots on goal through 40 minutes.
The Jets were one of the best teams in the NHL at closing out games with a lead, posting an outstanding record of 48-1-1 when entering the third period up on the scoreboard.
Jets lead 3-1 after one period
The Bell MTS Place was rocking before the game even started, with the sellout crowd dressed from head to toe in white joined together in singing Oh Canada.
The Jets gave them plenty of reasons to get even louder once the game started, scoring three goals in the first eight minutes to take an early 3-1 lead over the Golden Knights.
Jets’ defenseman Dustin Byfuglien blasted a slap shot past Golden Knights’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to open the scoring in game one of the Western Conference Finals barely a minute in.
Moments later the Jets took a commanding 2-0 lead less than seven minutes into the contest when star forward Patrik Laine sent a one-timer past Fleury on the power play. Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler assisted on both goals.
The Jets extended their lead to 3-0 when Joel Armia deflected the puck from the side of the goal and into the net. Armia skated through the crease and made contact with the knob of Fleury’s stick, prompting the referee to waive the goal off for goalie interference.
Winnipeg challenged the call and won, making it a three-goal lead.
Vegas would finally stop the bleeding when Brayden McNabb’s shot from the left circle squeaked through Connor Hellebuyck with 11:50 left in the period.
The Golden Knights had a power play chance near the end of the first, but were unable to cash in, and trial 3-1 at the break.
The Golden Knights can’t win tonight’s series opener in the first five minutes, but the players know they can lose it then.
The Jets will be flying high early, carried by the momentum of their raucous crowd. The city has been thirsty for a Stanley Cup since the original Jets team was founded in 1972 and they are closer than ever.
“The first five to 10 minutes in this building will be hard,” Vegas forward David Perron said. “I feel like the first two to three shifts for every guy have to be really strong defensively and we have to make great decisions with the puck.”
Winnipeg is one of the best first period teams in the NHL with 92 goals for and only 67 against during the regular season.
“We know that their crowd is going to be really energetic and give them a lot of energy,” Alex Tuch said. “They just played a big game seven where they played really well. We have to be on our toes, ready to play and have a strong first five minutes.”
If the Golden Knights can survive the opening push, it may leave them with a chance to steal home ice advantage on the first night of the series.
“I mean you have to think they’re a bit more tired than we are,” defenseman Luca Sbisa said. “We had a few more days of rest while they had a really hard series against Nashville. I’m sure their emotions are running high but their gas tank may be a little more empty than ours.”
Vegas will again be without fourth-line bruiser William Carrier who is sitting out the second straight game with an undisclosed injury. He is expected to be replaced by Ryan Reaves who led the team with eight hits in a game-six win over the Sharks.
“We want to continue to prove people wrong,” Perron said. “I know the predictions are that we won’t win this series, but why not go out there and put our best foot forward and see what happens.”
Perron may be right about the majority of predictions but not this one.
Prediction: Golden Knights 3, Jets 2
Playoffs record for predictions: 8-2
Season record for predictions: 38-26
Puck drops: 4:00 p.m.
Where: Bell MTS Place, Winnipeg
Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
TV: NBC Sports Network (DirecTV 220, Cox 1038, Dish Network 159)
Betting line: Golden Knights plus-130, Total 6 minus-125 to the under
Golden Knights playoff record (8-2) (4-1 away)
Coach: Gerard Gallant
Playoffs goal leader: Three tied (4)
Playoffs assist leader: Reilly Smith (10)
Expected goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (8-2, 1.53 goals against average)
Winnipeg Jets playoff record (8-4) (4-2 home)
Coach: Paul Maurice
Playoffs goal leader: Mark Scheifele (11)
Playoffs assist leader: Blake Wheeler (12)
Expected goalie: Connor Hellebuyck (8-4, 2.25 goals against average)
Golden Knights expected game day roster
Forwards (12): Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Carpenter, Cody Eakin, William Karlsson, Oscar Lindberg, Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal, David Perron, Ryan Reaves Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch.
Defensemen (6): Deryk Engelland, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, Luca Sbisa, Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore.
Goalies (2): Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban