After dispatching the Golden Knights with a three-goal barrage in the first-period of Game 1, the Winnipeg Jets found Vegas to be a much tougher opponent in their second series meeting, and couldn’t get anywhere near a repeat performance. The Knights rode a pair of first period goals and a brilliant bounce-back goaltending performance to take down the Jets in Winnipeg, 3-1, tying the Western Conference Finals at one game apiece.
The first sign that this was Vegas’s lucky night was the scorer of the game’s opening goal—Tomáš Tatar, an expensive midseason acquisition from the Red Wings who had completely flopped up to this point with the Knights. Tonight, in his first time cracking the roster since a 4-0 loss to the Sharks in Game 4 of the second round, Tatar earned his first point in over a month, scoring on a persistent effort with a first-period puck that barely eluded a desperate Connor Hellebuyck.
Four minutes later, a much more reliable forward in Jonathan Marchessault doubled the lead with a breakaway backhand. And despite the fact that it could have been 3-0 Vegas when Erik Haula hit the post 10 seconds later, the Knights didn’t need the extra cushion, and had enough to stay almost completely in command for the rest of the game. There was exactly one minute and 28 seconds during which Winnipeg had life, when a Kyle Connor shot somehow disappeared through Vegas goalie Marc-André Fleury to cut Vegas’s lead to 2-1 in the third. But the Knights immediately responded with another beautiful backhander from Marchessault, which sapped the Jets of any remaining ambition.
Despite the one bad goal, Fleury was fantastic, reasserting himself as the rock of this team after a shaky start to the series. He got help from the pipes when he needed it, but that good fortune was well-deserved in a night of focused and energetic stops. Fleury finished with 30 saves on 31 Winnipeg shots.
In what was initially a deafening Winnipeg atmosphere, the Golden Knights gave the home crowd nothing to cheer about, and even the third-period jeers of Fleury evaporated almost as soon as they started. Despite the poor start to the series, the expansion Knights have proven themselves the equal of their previously favored opponents. They have the upper hand as the teams head to Vegas.