Game 5 Preview: Golden Knights look to close out series against Jets
The Vegas Golden Knights won both games in Winnipeg and have won three straight since dropping Game 1, giving them an opportunity to eliminate the Winnipeg Jets tonight when the series shifts back to Las Vegas for Game 5.
The Golden Knights defeated the Jets 4-2 on Monday thanks to a two-goal performance by Brett Howden and a particularly strong outing for Laurent Brossoit.
The Jets will not have Mark Scheifele in the lineup tonight, which is a huge loss for the road team. However, Nikolaj Ehlers is a game-time decision; he has yet to play this series.
For Vegas, William Carrier is a game-time decision after being a full participant in practice and morning skate. Bruce Cassidy did not confirm who would come out if Carrier makes his return. At this point, it seems highly unlikely that Howden or Michael Amadio will come out, potentially leaving the door open for Ivan Barbashev or Phil Kessel (the ironman streak is not at jeopardy in the playoffs). It's also possible Cassidy will keep Carrier out even if he's ready to return considering the Golden Knights have won three straight and he hasn't played since March 3.
The Golden Knights have won three straight games, outscoring the Jets 14-8 in that span. However, one of those games required double overtime, and Game 4 was a one-goal game until the final 20 seconds of regulation. This series is much closer than it seems.
However, the Golden Knights will aim to earn the elusive fourth win to advance to the second round for the fourth time in franchise history.
"The fourth one's usually the toughest," Cassidy said after Game 4. "The team has to be ready to play. [The Jets] came in in Game 1 and outplayed us, and they won, so they know they can do it in our building. We were better in Game 2, got our game back in order. The message for us is we haven't won anything yet; you need to win four."
Vegas is 4-6 all-time in Game 5's and 2-3 with a 3-1 series lead; one of those wins came in the 2018 third-round matchup against the Jets in which Vegas won four straight following a Game 1 loss.
Keys to the game
The Jets scored two power-play goals against the Golden Knights in Game 4 and have at least one power-play goal in all four games of this series. The Golden Knights weren't exactly undisciplined in Game 4, but that doesn't mean discipline won't be key in tonight's matchup.
The Golden Knights have scored four-plus goals in three straight games, but Connor Hellebuyck had his best performance in Game 4. It wasn't enough to slow down the Golden Knights, but he will do everything in his power to extend the Jets' season and force a Game 6. Despite how things have gone in this series, he is an elite goaltender capable of stealing a game. To combat that, the Golden Knights have to capitalize on opportunities and put pucks on Hellebuyck all night. In Game 1, the Golden Knights barely tested him and recorded a season-low 17 shots on goal; that's not an option tonight.
Stick to the game plan
With their backs against the wall, the Jets will be desperate; the Golden Knights can't allow Winnipeg to dictate this game. The Golden Knights cannot get complacent on the forecheck and cannot afford to sit back the way they did in Game 3. It didn't end up costing them the win, but this would be a completely different series if they hadn't pulled out the double overtime win. The Golden Knights have the luxury of being able to roll four lines and three pairs, which is something Winnipeg didn't have even before suffering major injuries to Scheifele and Josh Morrissey. Neal Pionk has stepped up admirably in Morrissey's place and leads the Jets in scoring with seven points, and Ehlers could very well return to the lineup tonight, but the Golden Knights need to use the series lead and their depth to their advantage. They have to stick to their structured game and not lose the battle in the neutral zone; if they can do that, they will put themselves in position to close out the series. But above all else, the Golden Knights have to take this game and this situation seriously. Going back to Winnipeg for a Game 6 is a dangerous proposition; the Golden Knights need to avoid it at all costs.
Michael Amadio – Jack Eichel – Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Phil Kessel
Brett Howden – Chandler Stephenson – Mark Stone
Ivan Barbashev – Nicolas Roy – Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague – Zach Whitecloud
Kyle Connor – Pierre-Luc DuBois – Nikolaj Ehlers
Nino Niederreiter – Vladislav Namestnikov – Blake Wheeler
Morgan Barron – Adam Lowry – Mason Appleton
Axel Jonsson-Fjällby – Kevin Stenlund – Saku Maenalanen
Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk
Nate Schmidt – Dylan DeMelo
Dylan Samberg – Kyle Capobianco
How to watch
Game 5: Golden Knights vs. Jets
When: 7 p.m. PT
Where: T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, NV
TV: ESPN2, AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM