Golden Knights 4, Jets 2: Vegas wins both games in Winnipeg to take 3-1 series lead
The Vegas Golden Knights won their third straight game of the best-of-seven first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets Monday night at Canada Life Centre.
The Golden Knights found themselves in familiar territory late in the third period of Game 4. They were holding on to a one-goal lead against a Jets team fighting for the equalizer, just as they were Saturday afternoon in Game 3.
In Game 3, the Jets scored that equalizer to make it 4-4 with 22 seconds remaining in regulation, thus forcing overtime. But in Game 4, it was the Golden Knights who scored their fourth goal of the game in the waning seconds.
Brett Howden sealed the Golden Knights' 4-2 win with an empty-net goal at 19:43. After winning back-to-back games in Winnipeg, the Golden Knights now lead the series 3-1.
The overall turning point in the game was a 47-second span in the second period when the Golden Knights scored two goals in quick succession, the second of which proved to be the game-winner. But it was Vegas' effort in the third period that made the difference.
In the end, Vegas got goals from Howden (2), William Karlsson and Ivan Barbashev, and Chandler Stephenson and Shea Theodore had multi-point efforts.
Laurent Brossoit was stellar, stopping 24 of 26 shots for a .932 save percentage and keeping the Golden Knights in the game when Winnipeg threatened to reset the score.
On the first shift of the game, Brossoit made a spectacular and potentially game-changing save on Mark Scheifele's breakaway bid, setting the tone for what turned out to be a poised performance by the former Jets netminder.
Scheifele was shaken up on the play but was on the ice when Winnipeg got an early power play; that power play proved to be significant for several reasons.
After taking a shot on said power play, Scheifele left the ice and headed straight down the tunnel; he did not return to the game. Jets coach Rick Bowness said after the game that Scheifele, who led the Jets with 42 goals during the regular season, will be reevaluated tomorrow.
It was the second critical injury suffered by the Jets in the last two games, as Winnipeg lost defenseman Josh Morrissey in the first period of Game 3. Unlike Scheifele, Morrissey has been ruled out for the rest of the series.
However, sans Scheifele, the Jets still managed to open the scoring for the third time this series.
It was former captain Blake Wheeler who picked a corner from the top circle and beat Brossoit far-side.
But Howden responded exactly four minutes later. His initial shot was blocked by defenseman Neal Pionk, but Howden followed the shot and scored on his own rebound to make it 1-1 just under halfway through the opening frame.
It was Howden's first career playoff goal.
The Jets had some good looks late in the opening frame, but Brossoit stood tall to keep it tied after one.
The Golden Knights got a power play less than a minute into the second period, and it was arguably the club's best power play of the series, even if it was unsuccessful. But Connor Hellebuyck had his best stretch of the series, shutting down at least four solid scoring chances to keep it a 1-1 game.
Vegas' second power play of the period was nothing to write home about, though the Golden Knights scored right after it expired.
Jonathan Marchessault's shot deflected off Karlsson's skate to make it 2-1; the goal was reviewed for a kicking motion but was deemed legal, giving Vegas its first lead of the night.
The Golden Knights extended that lead just 47 seconds later.
After a surprisingly deft give-and-go exit sequence between Brayden McNabb and Barbashev, Theodore skated in from the blue line and fired a shot from the top of the left circle; Barbashev deflected the shot for his first of the series, making it 3-1 at 14:19.
Stephenson recorded the secondary assist on the play, giving him his third straight multi-point efffort.
Brossoit was a factor once again in the second period, turning away all eight shots in Winnipeg's best offensive frame. Thanks to his efforts, the Golden Knights carried a multi-goal lead into the third period for the second game in a row.
For the second game in a row, Winnipeg chipped away at that deficit.
It was another power-play strike for the Jets, who went 2-for-2 in the game. It was an unusual goal, as Alex Pietrangelo tried to bat the puck out of the air with his glove but missed. The goal was reviewed for a high stick but was confirmed by the officials, making it a one-goal game just under three minutes into the third.
The Jets had a strong push and were effective on the forecheck in the third period but were unable to net the equalizer.
The Golden Knights came close to potting an insurance marker, but after a brilliant setup by Mark Stone, Howden missed the open net.
Winnipeg pulled Hellebuyck with 90 seconds remaining, but the Golden Knights prevailed. After the Jets fanned on a shot, Stone once again set up Howden; this time, he made no mistake, cashing in with an empty-net goal with 17 seconds left.
Once again, the Golden Knights found a way to win, sweeping the two-game series with back-to-back wins on the road in a hostile environment.
"We've been a great road team all year," Theodore said. "We play a simple game, and I feel like that's starting to pay off."
For the second game in a row, Bruce Cassidy said he never thought Vegas was in trouble.
"I thought our third period was better today. I thought we limited some of their offense better. But I wasn't that upset when I went home and watched the third period [of Game 3]. ... They just did some good things. Tonight they didn't do as many good things."
Vegas gave up the first goal but only trailed for four minutes all night. Though Winnipeg scored twice on two power-play opportunities, one was a screened shot that beat Brossoit cleanly and the other was a bizarre mishap.
Late in the game, Brossoit was serenaded by his former fanbase with taunting chants of "You're a backup."
However, that only fueled Vegas' starting goaltender.
Brossoit didn't face a ton of shots but came through with clutch saves at key moments and elevated his play when Vegas needed it most, proving to be a critical factor in the victory.
But despite missing two crucial players, Winnipeg was a formidable adversary until the very end; it was essentially a must-win game for the Jets, and it was Hellebuyck's best performance of the series.
"The message to the guys tonight was you gotta be ready for Winnipeg's best game tonight. They're at home, it's Game 4, it's a big swing game," Bruce Cassidy said.
The Golden Knights were ready.
The win gives Vegas a commanding 3-1 series lead that they will take home to T-Mobile Arena for Game 5, which is set for Thursday night.