Published Wednesday, May 16, 2018 | 4 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, May 16, 2018 | 8:18 p.m.
Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant in the third period Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena, and the Golden Knights barely held on to beat Winnipeg 4-2 and take a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals.
Jonathan Marchessault got Vegas off to a hot start with a gorgeous breakaway goal only 35 seconds into the game. Marchessault beat Jets’ defenseman Jacob Trouba to a loose puck, and deked around goaltender Connor Hellebuyck for his seventh goal of the playoffs.
Winnipeg tied the game briefly in the second period with Mark Scheifele’s 15th goal of the postseason, but James Neal answered 12 seconds later. Neal would then assist on a goal by Alex Tuch that put the Golden Knights up 3-1 entering the third period.
Scheifele would score again 18 seconds into the third period to pull Winnipeg within a goal, but they were unable to beat Fleury for the remainder of the game despite dominating the third period in shots and possession.
Vegas added an empty net goal with only seconds remaining.
Golden Knights lead 3-1 after two periods
The Jets tied the game briefly in the second period, and I do mean briefly.
Mark Scheifele redirected Blake Wheeler’s shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to knot the game 1-1, but James Neal gave Vegas back its lead only 12 seconds later.
Erik Haula chased the puck down behind the net, and made a no-look pass right to Neal who tapped it into the wide-open net.
Minutes later Neal went behind the net and found Alex Tuch for a one-timer goal to make it 3-1. The goal was Tuch’s fifth of the playoffs which ties him for second on the team.
The Golden Knights have outshot Winnipeg 22-19 after two periods and lead the game 3-1. Vegas is 31-3-2 when leading entering the third period.
Golden Knights lead 1-0 after one period
In the opening minute Golden Knights’ forward Jonathan Marchessault out-raced Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba to a loose puck in the Winnipeg zone to ignite a breakaway chance.
Even with Trouba diving at his feet, Marchessault deked right, then left around goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to backhand the puck into the net only 35 seconds into the game.
The Golden Knights lead 1-0 after one period at T-Mobile Arena after defending the Jets extremely well for 20 minutes of hockey.
Marc-Andre Fleury was only called upon to make three saves in the first period. The Jets had one power play but were unable to muster even a shot on goal.
The Golden Knights will start the second period with 1:36 remaining on their second power play of the game after Mathieu Perreault was called for tripping on Nate Schmidt late in the first.
It’s been nearly two weeks since the Golden Knights played a home playoff game, so expect the atmosphere at T-Mobile Arena to be even more supercharged than normal tonight as Vegas hosts the Winnipeg Jets for game three of the Western Conference Finals.
The teams split the first two games in Winnipeg. The Golden Knights bounced back after a tough 4-2 loss in game one with a 3-1 victory in game two while controlling most of the action.
Vegas will try to use their crowd for momentum to get off to a better start tonight. Winnipeg is an outstanding 37-4-6 this season when scoring first, and 30-2-2 when leading after the first period so a good start for the Golden Knights is crucial.
“It gets you going for sure,” Tomas Tatar said. “It builds a lot of confidence and I think the whole team calms down after the first goal. I still say you have to play 60 minutes in the playoffs to win a hockey game, the start is not good enough.”
Tatar, who has spent many of the games this postseason in the press box as a healthy scratch, was inserted into the lineup on Monday and scored the vital first goal of the game.
“I was just happy we could take a lead in the game,” Tatar said. “Who ever scored it would have been great.”
It was Tatar’s first point of the postseason.
“It was great,” linemate Cody Eakin said. “It’s huge for him and good for him to chip in and help us get a win. Hopefully we can continue to build off that and get better and better.”
The 27-year-old winger is expected to play again tonight alongside Eakin and Ryan Carptenter.
“I definitely feel more comfortable,” Tatar said. “Our coaching staff has done a really good job with the guys that aren’t playing and I didn’t feel bad at all coming back.”
David Perron is expected to miss his second consecutive game with an illness. This morning he said he is day-to-day this morning and said he “wasn’t feeling well.”
Prediction: Golden Knights 4, Jets 3 OT
Playoffs record for predictions: 9-3
Season record for predictions: 38-26
Puck drops: 6:00 p.m.
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
TV: NBC Sports Network (DirecTV 220, Cox 1038, Dish Network 159)
Betting line: Golden Knights minus-130, Total 5.5 minus-110 to the under
Golden Knights playoff record (9-3) (4-1 home)
Coach: Gerard Gallant
Playoffs goal leader: Jonathan Marchessault (6)
Playoffs assist leader: Reilly Smith (13)
Expected goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (9-3, 1.68 goals against average)
Winnipeg Jets playoff record (9-5) (4-2 home)
Coach: Paul Maurice
Playoffs goal leader: Mark Scheifele (12)
Playoffs assist leader: Blake Wheeler (15)
Expected goalie: Connor Hellebuyck (9-5, 2.29 goals against average)
Golden Knights expected game day roster
Forwards (12): Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Carpenter, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Reaves, Reilly Smith, Tomas Tatar and Alex Tuch.
Defensemen (6): Deryk Engelland, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, Luca Sbisa, Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore.
Goalies (2): Marc-Andre Fleury and Maxime Lagace