Knights dump Jets to even conference final, take home-ice advantage

Forward Blake Wheeler left has been one of the Winnipeg Jets’ key players during this Stanley Cup run

Forward Blake Wheeler left has been one of the Winnipeg Jets’ key players during this Stanley Cup run

The Knights, who swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the playoffs before downing the San Jose Sharks in six games to advance to the conference final, continue to defy the odds in a stunning inaugural campaign that saw them top the Pacific Division with 109 points.

Blake Wheeler liked 57 minutes of Monday's game between Winnipeg and Vegas.

The Golden Knights talked at length for two days about the need for a fast start. He tucked in his own rebound from the right side of the net. "I think we showed the hockey world that (we earned) the right to be here and we're able to play against a great team". "Three minutes of it got away from us".

While the Jets lost for the third time in the past four home games after ripping off a 13-game winning streak at MTS Place that dates back to March 1, they have plenty of reasons to be feeling good about the way they've played on the road in the post-season. Patrik Laine and Joel Armia had goals 46 seconds apart to give Winnipeg a three-goal lead, and the Golden Knights were unable to recover. The Capitals centre has eight goals and 19 points in 14 games, including an overtime victor, and he has not slowed down with Nicklaus Backstrom injured and the focus of the best checkers now squarely on him and the line he makes tick ...

After losing the series opener, Marchessault told reporters the team faced a must-win game.

"We kind of just dipped our toe in the water, a little bit of a feeling out process", Knights winger James Neal said. "We're going to try to bring the same effort".

"I tried to drop everything and just play my game", Tatar said. The Jets have not won anything since the WHA days and we all know that the Knights are brand spanking new. Connor Hellebuyck had 25 saves for the Jets.

"It's not about proving anything", Tatar said. So soon after Marchessault scored to make it 2-0 - while being sent in on a breakaway when Reilly Smith stripped Kyle Connor of the puck in the neutral zone - how could the Jets suffer another breakdown and let Erik Haula walk in alone?

The Jets got some momentum off a penalty kill following the intermission, but couldn't solve Fleury on any of their eight shots in a second that also saw Andrew Copp hit the post. But the buzz in the air was quickly neutralized when Marchessault fired his second goal of the contest on a backhand just 88 seconds later.

"I think that's the story of our club: We were all part of... not being part of the centre of every hockey club we were on, I think", Marchessault said of the expansion Knights.

As much as the Golden Knights' attack helped the team take control, Marc-Andre Fleury and the Vegas defense were excellent in making sure the two-goal lead held up. Winnipeg eventually cut the deficit to 2-1 in the third frame, but that's as close as they got to tying to score.

Winnipeg no longer has home-ice advantage in the series.

At one point Monday - whether it was when Schmidt drew.

They acquired a tough fourth liner in Ryan Reaves, a minor league defenceman named Philip Holm and a former 29-goal scorer in Tomas Tatar. Veteran forwards David Perron and Oscar Lindberg were both listed as scratches after playing in Game 1.

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