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Golden Knights take 3-1 lead in West Final with Game 4 win over Jets

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The Vegas Golden Knights are one win away from the Stanley Cup Final. What a world.

Winnipeg Jets v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Four Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

It’s not a dream

It was Reilly Smith’s time. He was due. He had just one goal this postseason and wasn’t keeping up with linemates William Karlsson (who opened scoring on the power play in this game) and Jonathan Marchessault, at least in terms of goal scoring. Still, when he took the puck off of Dustin Byfuglien, streaked down the ice and beat Connor Hellebuyck high, that was all but expected. It ended up being the game-winning goal, putting the Vegas Golden Knights up 3-1 in the series against the Winnipeg Jets.

Karlsson opened the scoring, but Patrik Laine tied it up on the power play in the second.

The Knights took too many penalties in that period, and the expected result did eventually come to fruition. Then Tomas Nosek responded less than a minute later for the fourth line’s first (official) goal of the postseason. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare set the play up and got the primary assist.

What a play by Bellemare.

Tyler Myers eventually one-timed a goal past Marc-Andre Fleury after a dominant start to the final period for the Jets. It was a delayed reaction, but it was a tie.

Eight minutes later, Smith sealed it for Vegas.

Analysis

Fleury was again phenomenal. He’s had to be, and he has been. He saved 35-of-37 shots for a .946 save percentage. The first line continues to produce and the power play looked great. The second line got chances as well (thanks, David Perron).

Still, this could have been a much better game for the Golden Knights. At 5-on-5, the Golden Knights lost the Corsi battle (47-64, 42.34 percent) the shot battle (24-26, 48 percent), and the high-danger battle (12-17, 41.38 percent). The possession battle got worse as the game went on.

The Golden Knights also allowed far too many chances in front of the net. As has been said, Fleury shouldn’t have to be this good if the defense would step up.

That dark blue “T” in front of the net. Yeah. That’s not great. The thing is, the two best defensemen in this series so far, Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore, both stepped up.

Theodore had the most 5-on-5 minutes, was on ice for two goals for, and while he was in the group of players caught in their own zone leading to the Myers goal, only allowed that one. He started most of his shifts in the defensive zone, and still drove the puck forward. He had two long shifts in the third period, and right before the Smith goal played with three partners — Deryk Engelland, Luca Sbisa, and Colin Miller.

Yet even he wasn’t as good as Schmidt. Schmidt didn’t allow a goal, drove the puck consistently, and was where he needed to be, including at the very end of the game, against Mark Scheifele, no less. This is the first game where Scheifele didn’t score, and that was because of the work done by Schmidt and Brayden McNabb.

The mission for Game 5; clear the crease. Keep the puck out of the net. Make sure there’s no bodies in front of the net and stop taking penalties. Cover Scheifele and don’t let Laine get a shot off if a penalty does occur.

What an insane world this is. The Golden Knights are one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.

Isn’t hockey great?