Box scores can be very misleading.
On Wednesday night the Golden Knights defeated the Jets, 4-2, to take a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference finals. Before that game I noted that neither team should have a gripe with the split in Games 1 and 2, but the same can’t really be said for Game 3.
Paying for Mistakes
The Golden Knights succeed by forcing their opponents to abandon script. They pressure and annoy you until you make a mistake. Then they hope that mistake lands on the stick of Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal or William Karlsson and that they can make you pay for said mistake.
That strategy paid immediate dividends in Game 3. Just 35 seconds into the game, Mark Scheifele turned the puck over at the Knights’ blue line. It ended up on Brayden McNabb’s stick, and he tossed a blind pass into the neutral zone that ended up on Marchessault’s stick. Just like that it was 1-0 Vegas.
To the Knights’ credit, Vegas did have the better of play in the first period, and Winnipeg was fortunate it wasn’t 2-0.
After a lucky goal by Winnipeg tied things up, Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck handed the lead right back to Vegas 12 seconds later by misplaying a puck behind the net. Two minutes later, Nate Schmidt batted down a failed chip-in by Kyle Connor at the Knights’ blue line and hit Neal with an outlet pass that cut through the neutral zone and led to an Alex Tuch goal. Just when it looked like Winnipeg was getting a foot in the door, Vegas punished the Jets for their mistakes.
The third period, however, gave us a really good look at just how dominant the Jets can be. Eighteen seconds into the period, Scheifele converted a great feed from Connor to bring the Jets within a goal. From that point on, Vegas held on for dear life.