Las Vegas evens Stanley Cup series with Winnipeg
WINNIPEG—Perhaps, the Winnipeg Whiteout can be tamed after all.
Since winning 13 games in a row in Bell MTS Place, the Winnipeg Jets have suddenly lost three of the last four in front of their vaunted crowd—the latest being a 3-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of their Western Conference final.
The best-of-seven series is now tied 1-1 with Games 3 and 4 scheduled for Las Vegas on Wednesday and Friday.
"We knew they were going to be faster this game," Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba said. "That's what they were. They're a good team. This is the conference finals. I don't think anyone expected anything different.
"I don't think anybody's panicking. We've been here before. It's a long series. We'll go to Vegas and we like our road game. We like where it was in the Nashville series. We're going to try to bring the same effort."
Winnipeg no longer has home-ice advantage in the series. To win it and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time ever, the Jets will have to get it done on the road, just as they did last round against the Nashville Predators.
The Golden Knights used the same recipe that the Predators used to win in Bell MTS Place: Score early, build a 2-0 lead through two periods and hold off the high-scoring Jets offense the rest of the way.
Vegas forward Tomas Tatar, who was a healthy scratch in Game 1, scored the first goal of the game, while Jonathan Marchessault added a pair of goals himself to take home-ice advantage from Winnipeg in the series.
Vegas became the first team other than Nashville to beat the Jets in Bell MTS Place since the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 20.
The Jets received a lone goal from Kyle Connor, a power-play marker in the third period to break up Marc-Andre Fleury's shutout bid.
Roseau's Dustin Byfuglien, a dominant presence in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, was held without a point and was a minus-2.
"They were good; they were on the puck," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. "They didn't make it easy."
Vegas took a 1-0 lead at 13:23 of the first period, when defenseman Shea Theodore had the puck in the high slot and made a touch pass to Tatar at the side of the crease. Tatar's initial attempt went wide, but he collected the rebound off the end wall and slammed it short side before Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck could get back in position.
The Golden Knights added to the lead less than four minutes later, when Jets forward Kyle Connor turned the puck over in the neutral zone, allowing Marchessault to go on a clean breakaway. Marchessault tucked the puck five-hole with his backhand to build a 2-0 lead.
"They're opportunistic in the same sense we kind of can be," Trouba said. "You give them a little light or a little day and they're going to take advantage of it. It doesn't matter what line it is. Each line brings a little bit something different to the table."
Winnipeg cut the Vegas lead to one at 7:17 of the third period, when Connor converted on the power play. Connor rushed up the left side and snapped a shot underneath the arm of Fleury to get the crowd back into it.
But just 1:28 later, the Golden Knights took advantage of another Winnipeg mistake. Trouba pinched in the neutral zone, creating a two-on-one for Vegas. Former Miami RedHawk Reilly Smith hit Marchessault, who made a deke on top of the crease and scored on his backhand.
"We know that their crowd is going to be excited," Jets forward Paul Stastny said. "They're going to feed off of that. But we've played in hostile environments. We know how to play on the road. Sometimes, we simplify our game and sometimes it makes it easier for us to play our game."