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July 20, 2019

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Golden Knights fall to high-flying Jets, struggle to regain misfit mojo

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Steve Marcus

Winnipeg Jets celebrate a goal by right wing Patrik Laine, center, during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at T-Mobile Arena Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) is at right.

Jets Beat Golden Knights, 6-3

Winnipeg Jets center Adam Lowry (17) celebrates after scoring on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) in the second period at T-Mobile Arena Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. Launch slideshow »

Perhaps the most impressive thing about last year’s Golden Knights was their Golden Misfits mentality, the mindset that they were the castaways banded together, so why not prove everybody wrong? No matter the score, they always believed they could win the game.

It wasn’t that way Friday night. The Golden Knights fought back from a two-goal deficit but crumbled at the Winnipeg Jets’ special-team prowess as the game went on, and eventually fell 6-3 at T-Mobile Arena.

“Normally we always have more purpose because we work harder and skate faster and that’s not happening with us right now,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “There’s no excuses to not working.”

The Jets scored twice in the opening 90 seconds, and by the second period Vegas had battled back to even it. It looked like the game was heading for the third period tied, but a late power play led to another Winnipeg goal, and the Jets cashed in 27 seconds later, scoring twice in the final 31 seconds of the period.

Marchessault scored eight seconds into the third, but that was it. Another power-play goal made it 5-3 Winnipeg, with any hope of comeback departing the building the same time as the fans when an empty-net goal went in with 1:26 to play.

Winnipeg was 2-for-4 on the power play and held Vegas scoreless in three opportunities with the extra man.

"I didn't like a whole lot about tonight," coach Gerard Gallant said. "It's not good enough, but it's a lot more than the power play."

The flashes of the Golden Misfits have been there this season. They were embarrassed in a 7-1 loss to Calgary in November, then rallied for five wins in a row. They overcame a two-goal deficit to beat the league-leading Lightning two weeks ago and beat up the Penguins at home in January.

Sustaining it has been a different story. Friday’s game followed a similar script to a Coyotes game last week: falling behind 2-0, tying the game, then allowing the opposition to pull away. It’s happened a lot lately, in fact, as Vegas has dropped six of its last seven games and 10 of 13.

“When this team has swagger and confidence, we’re getting chances and we’re burying them and that’s just not the case right now,” forward Max Pacioretty said. “Rough patch or whatever you want to call it, no one is going to bail us out of this. It’s all on the players in here.”

Friday was the last game before Monday’s trade deadline, meaning there is a chance someone on the ice tonight has played his final game as a Golden Knight.

Maybe a trade this weekend sparks the team to the level of play that gave them a seven-game winning streak from the end of December into January. More likely, though, it will be up to the players in the dressing room to recapture last year’s magic and swagger.

“I hope as a hockey player you find it and you look in the mirror and say I've got to do better than I’ve done,” Gallant said. “We've got to find the Misfits again.”

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