Vegas (32-26-6) has now gone 1-6-1 in its last eight home games and is 0-2-1 in its last three games.
The Golden Knights remain firmly in third place in the Pacific division, but after a rough loss to the Boston Bruins Wednesday night, this was not the bounce-back performance Vegas needed.
The game got off to a rough start as Vegas gave up two quick goals in the first 90 seconds of the first period.
Nikolaj Ehlers got the Jets on the board just 56 seconds into the game. The play was a sign of things to come as the Jets went straight to the crease and capitalized to take an early 1-0 lead.
GOAL. Jets get one past Fleury early. pic.twitter.com/xP1lA0YTqG— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 23, 2019
Winnipeg found ways to keep the play alive, and Oscar Lindberg got back late as Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt were otherwise occupied. That can’t happen, but it was 1-0 Jets less than a minute in.
From there, it took Kyle Connor just 32 seconds to double Winnipeg’s lead. He got behind the defense and went straight to the net to pot his third goal in two games against the Knights this season.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare cut the lead to one with his first goal since Dec. 4 at 15:43 of the first. Shea Theodore then tied the game just over eight minutes into the second period.
It seemed as though both teams would enter intermission tied at 2-2, but Winnipeg had other plans.
For the second time in the game, the Jets scored two goals in quick succession. First, Patrik Laine snapped a 15-game goalless drought when he converted on the power play with 31 seconds left in the second period.
GOAL. Patrik Laine scores on the power play to give Winnipeg the 3-2 lead. That's his first in 15 games. pic.twitter.com/urt1zNjAxb— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 23, 2019
Remember how against the Washington Capitals last June, the Golden Knights had lapses in judgement where they didn’t pay any attention to Alex Ovechkin on the power play? That’s what happened tonight.
It’s irrelevant that Laine, one of the top goal-scorers in the league, hadn’t scored since Jan. 13. The Knights gave him way too much time and space in his office, and he made them pay.
Just 27 seconds later, Adam Lowry gave the Jets a two-goal lead with just four seconds in the period.
GOAL. And now Adam Lowry scores. Two goals in 27 seconds. Jets lead 4-2. pic.twitter.com/0mJwysjZa0— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 23, 2019
The pair of goals helped Winnipeg suck the air out of the building and take a shocking 4-2 lead into the locker room.
However, Jonathan Marchessault gave the Knights life by cutting the deficit to one goal just eight seconds into the third period.
GOAL. Marchessault scores to make it 4-3 just eight seconds into the period. That's a franchise record! pic.twitter.com/4AEyBFZHcg— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 23, 2019
But when Vegas gave the Jets another power play, Laine put the game out of reach when he netted his second power-play goal of the game to make it 5-3 with 14:29 remaining. Andrew Copp sealed the win for Winnipeg with an empty-netter at 18:34 of the third.
Though it was disappointing that the Knights were unable to come away with two points in Wednesday’s shootout loss to the Bruins, the feeling was that the final result wasn’t overly concerning since the Knights played well and because Vegas is solidified as the third seed in the Pacific Division standings. However, Vegas should worry about tonight’s result.
The Golden Knights outplayed Winnipeg for much of this game, finishing the night with a 50.98 percent shot share and 50.53 percent Corsi. But when the Golden Knights were bad, they were really bad.
The power play continued to look stagnant (Vegas went 0-for-3 tonight), and the penalty kill was especially costly since Winnipeg scored twice on four attempts.
Even so, lackluster play at 5-on-5 is what hurt Vegas the most throughout this game, as the Knights were held to just five high-danger chances, including a wholly unremarkable zero in the third period (and just one in the second and third periods combined).
This heat map from tonight’s game is particularly jarring considering the massive blue area in front of Winnipeg’s net as well as the lack of anything resembling red in front of Vegas’.
You can’t win hockey games when you don’t get to the crease and when you are held to the perimeter throughout the contest. This is certainly not what the Golden Knights’ heat maps have looked like for most of this season, even in previous losses.
Though Marc-Andre Fleury made some terrific saves, he finished the night with an .821 save percentage after stopping 23 of 28 shots. He looked shaky at times once again, which has been a frequent occurrence in recent games. He now has five consecutive losses and an .885 save percentage in February. Vegas will need him to be much better down the stretch.
Notably, Cody Eakin took a puck to the face and, simultaneously, a cross-check to the back in the second period.
ICYMI, here's what happened to Cody Eakin earlier. Not pretty. pic.twitter.com/1a8ujLJmKt— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 23, 2019
The play took Eakin out of action for a while, but he returned later in the game, thankfully. That’s something Vegas will need to monitor in the coming days.