JETS CON­FI­DENT THEY’LL RE­BOUND

But Win­nipeg des­per­ately needs sec­ondary scor­ing or it’s all over, writes Ken Wiebe.

Edmonton Journal - - SPORTS - LAS VE­GAS 4, WIN­NIPEG 2 kwiebe@post­media.com twit­ter.com/WiebeSunS­ports

The Win­nipeg Jets find them­selves in un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory and only have them­selves to blame for it.

For the first time in the 2018 Stanley Cup play­offs, the Jets have dropped con­sec­u­tive games.

How they re­spond to this lat­est round of ad­ver­sity could mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween a quick se­ries and one that could po­ten­tially go the dis­tance.

In Wed­nes­day’s game, the Jets gave up an early goal and had a cou­ple of break­downs after ty­ing the con­test in the sec­ond pe­riod, ul­ti­mately fall­ing 4-2 to the Ve­gas Golden Knights.

With the win, the Golden Knights take a 2-1 se­ries lead, with Game 4 set for Fri­day night at T-Mo­bile Arena.

“We’ve played our best hockey all year bounc­ing back. We lost a cou­ple of games in a row this year, but we al­ways seem to bounce back,” Jets cap­tain Blake Wheeler said be­fore the game. “It seems like when our backs are against the wall, it brings out the best in our group.”

Ear­lier in the se­ries, Jets head coach Paul Mau­rice was asked about his team’s lack of sec­ondary scor­ing, and he made it clear he wasn’t too con­cerned — mostly be­cause the Jets were still find­ing a way to win.

But after drop­ping two games, it has to be a con­cern — even if Mau­rice doesn’t want to ac­knowl­edge that pub­licly.

When you get to the con­fer­ence fi­nal, the im­por­tance of sec­ondary scor­ing is para­mount, since the top guns on each side usu­ally find a way to can­cel each other out.

The other area the Jets need a boost is in goal, where Con­nor Helle­buyck is get­ting out­played for the first time in th­ese play­offs.

It’s not like Helle­buyck has been poor or has been giv­ing up an abun­dance of soft goals, be­cause he hasn’t, but the guy at the other end of the rink has been just that much better.

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that Marc-An­dre Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup win­ner and no­body was play­ing better than him com­ing into this se­ries.

Since giv­ing up four goals in the se­ries opener, Fleury has been nearly un­stop­pable and the Golden Knights have found a way to rally around him.

But if the Jets want to even this se­ries on Fri­day night in Game 4 be­fore it shifts back to Win­nipeg, Helle­buyck is go­ing to need to el­e­vate his game.

That’s what Fleury is do­ing and it’s one of the big­gest rea­sons the ex­pan­sion Golden Knights are within two wins of the Stanley Cup fi­nal.

After talk­ing about the im­por­tance of a fast start, the Jets turned the puck over in the neu­tral zone on the open­ing shift and Jonathan Marches­sault scored 35 sec­onds into the con­test.

Al­though the Jets found a way to get their feet un­der them, they weren’t able to gen­er­ate much of­fence, as they were lim­ited to only three shots on goal in the first pe­riod.

In many ways, the Jets were for­tu­nate to be down only one goal after 20 min­utes of play.

The Jets got a re­di­rect­ion from Mark Scheifele to pull even at 5:28 of the sec­ond pe­riod, but the game was tied for only 12 sec­onds be­fore James Neal took ad­van­tage of a turnover be­hind the net by Helle­buyck.

Be­fore Helle­buyck was able to move the puck to a wait­ing for­ward, he had his pocket picked by Erik Haula, who found Neal alone in front for the tap-in.

Neal set up Alex Tuch in front a few shifts later as the Golden Knights built a two-goal cush­ion.

The Jets had a chance to pull within one dur­ing a power play late in the sec­ond pe­riod, but Pa­trik Laine ripped a shot off the post.

Win­nipeg made it a one-goal game 18 sec­onds into the third pe­riod as Kyle Con­nor found Scheifele alone in front to put a little heat on.

The Jets had nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties to even the score, but Fleury stood tall, fin­ish­ing with 33 saves.

Marches­sault scored into the empty net with 2.7 sec­onds to go to give him four goals in the se­ries and eight in the play­offs.

“He’s a cocky little guy. He jokes around in the locker-room. He has lots of fun. He has lots to say. But our play­ers love him,” said Golden Knights head coach Ger­ard Gal­lant.

The Jets were forced to make an un­ex­pected lineup change when for­ward Niko­laj Eh­lers was un­able to play be­cause of an undis­closed ail­ment.

Eh­lers, who hasn’t scored in 13 play­off games, was re­placed by rookie winger Jack Roslovic.

David Per­ron of the Golden Knights wasn’t feel­ing well and was scratched for a sec­ond straight game.

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