Jets topple Knights in opener
Scheifele scores 12th goal of post-season
LOS ANGELES, May 13, (AFP): Patrik Laine and Joel Armia scored 46 seconds apart in the first period as the Winnipeg Jets rolled over the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 in the opening game of their Western Conference Final series.
The Jets pounced on the expansion Golden Knights from the opening puck drop on Saturday, scoring three times on their first eight shots against a shell-shocked Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
“We did a good job of getting a good start,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler. “They are a great team. They have so much speed. It is going to be a long, tough series.”
Finnish forward Laine scored on the powerplay at 6:49 of the first period to make it 2-0 and the Jets’ roaring start continued when Armia made it 3-0 at 7:35 after a successful challenge by the Jets’ coaching staff overturned a no-goal call by the referees.
Mark Scheifele, with his leagueleading 12th goal of the post-season, and Dustin Byfuglien also scored for Winnipeg who reached the National Hockey League semifinals series by knocking off the Nashville Predators, the best team in the league during the regular season.
Wheeler, who had three assists, is one of 11 American-born players on the Jets.
“I have always felt a special connection to the people here. But I am no different than any of the other guys,” he said in the Canadian prairie city.
Scheifele, who scored his leagueleading 12th goal of the post-season, now has four more goals than any other player remaining in the playoffs.
Armia had his second goal of the postseason waved off only to have it restored by a challenge, which overturned the initial goaltender interference call on the ice.
Game Two of the best of seven series is Monday night in Winnipeg before the series shifts to Las Vegas.
“We know the next game is going to be harder. It is going to get harder and harder but it was nice to get the first one out of the way,” Laine said.
Brayden McNabb and William Karlsson scored for the Golden Knights who weren’t even in existence a year ago but got this far in their inaugural season on hard work and desire.
The Golden Knights looked the rustier of the two teams as they had six days off after eliminating the San Jose Sharks in six games.
Fleury was not his normal self, giving up a goal to Byfuglien just 65 seconds into the contest in front of a white-clad pro-Jets crowd of 15,300 at the Bell MTS Place arena. Fleury, who had a playoff best .951 save percentage coming into the game, finished with 22 saves.
“We had a week off. Sometimes getting your legs under you takes a few minutes and they took advantage,” Fleury said.
Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stopped 19 shots.