Vegas Golden Knights Take 2-1 Lead over Winnipeg in Western Conference Finals
Johnathan Marchessault scored two goals for the second consecutive game to lead the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
The win gave the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals, putting the expansion franchise just two wins away from earning a trip to the Stanley Cup final.
Marchessault opened the game by scoring just 35 seconds into the first period. The 1-0 lead held up for Vegas until early in the second, when Mark Scheifele scored to tie the game at one.
Golden Knights Survive Third Period Onslaught
But Vegas would grab the lead again just 12 seconds later when James Neal made the score 2-1. Neal would assist on another goal by Alex Tuch less than three minutes later, giving the Golden Knights a 3-1 advantage heading into the second intermission.
The Jets dominated most of the third period, with Scheifele scoring his second goal of the game, and his 14th of the playoffs, just 18 seconds in. Winnipeg would go on to put 16 shots on net in the final period, but couldn’t break through again, as Marc-Andre Fleury continued his incredible play in goal to preserve the lead.
With just three seconds remaining in the game, Marchessault scored for a second time on an empty-net goal, giving the Golden Knights their two-goal margin of victory.
While Vegas has been getting contributions from just about everyone at different points during the playoffs, the one constant has been Fleury. The veteran goaltender has come up big seemingly every time the Golden Knights have needed him to preserve a lead or keep them in a tight game, and he did it once again in the final period on Wednesday.
“He’s made unbelievable saves,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said about Fleury after the game. “He’s been great all playoffs, he’s been great all year for us. He’s a guy that has fun out there. I’m sweating on the bench yelling my head off and I look down there and he’s just having fun.”
Vegas Playoff Flu? Jets Don’t Think So
The Golden Knights have also benefited from an overwhelming home-ice advantage throughout the season, something analysts have come to call the “Vegas Flu.” The Golden Knights went 29-10-2 at home during the regular season, and are now 5-1 in Vegas during the playoffs.
If there’s any truth to the distractions of Las Vegas causing opposing teams problems, it’s hard to imagine that’s as big an issue during the playoffs, something Jets center Mark Scheifele was quick to point out when reporters asked him about his postgame plans after Game 3.
“It’s the playoffs, you gotta put your nose to the grindstone,” Scheifele said. “It’s all about resting and recovering, and that’s our focus each and every day here.”
The Golden Knights’ success in the first three games of the series have positioned Vegas as the team to beat in the NHL playoffs. Bet365 now has Vegas as the 2/1 favorite to win the Stanley Cup this season, ahead of the Washington Capitals (12/5) and Tampa Bay Lightning (17/5). Meanwhile, Winnipeg has fallen to 33/10 to win the title.
The Golden Knights will host the Jets again for Game 4 of their seven-game series on Friday night.
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