October 22, 2018

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Record: 5 – 2 – 1

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Jets in flight with dominant Game 1 win

Byfuglien's early goal sets tone, chases away concern about fatigue

Jets defeat Golden Knights 4-2 to take Game 1 of Western Conference final
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Nikolaj Ehlers (27), Mark Scheifele (55), Dustin Byfuglien (33) and Patrik Laine (29) celebrate Byfuglien's goal against the Vegas Golden Knights during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Vegas Golden Knights' goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) knocks the puck away from Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Copp (9) as Knights' Luca Sbisa (47) defends during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) beats Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) but misses the open net during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Paul Stastny (25) celebrates Mark Scheifele's (not shown) goal on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) as Nate Schmidt (88) defends during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine (29), Blake Wheeler (26), Mark Scheifele (55) and Paul Stastny (25) celebrate Laine's goal against the Vegas Golden Knights during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Vegas Golden Knights celebrate William Karlsson's (71) goal against the Winnipeg Jets during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p> (CP)
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) gets dumped over the Vegas boards by Vegas Golden KnightsÕ Ryan Reaves (75) during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) gets dumped over the Vegas boards by Vegas Golden Knights' Ryan Reaves (75) in front of Cody Eakin (21), Oscar Lindberg (24) and Jonathan Marchessault (81) during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p> (CP)
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant disputes the referees' decision on a Winnipeg Jets' challenged goal during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p> (CP)
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' fans taunt Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Ben Chiarot (7), Joel Armia (40) and Tyler Myers (57) celebrate after Armia's goal against the Vegas Golden Knights was challenged and judged good during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p> (CP)
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Adam Lowry (17) checks Vegas Golden Knights' Colin Miller (6) during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) saves the Winnipeg Jets' shot during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Kyle Connor (81) shot goes through the pads of Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) but Brayden McNabb (3) clears it during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine (29) celebrates his goal on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine (not shown) scores on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) as Jets' Paul Stastny and Golden Knights' Deryk Engelland look on during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) reacts after scoring against the Vegas Golden Knights during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><pVegas Golden Knights' Deryk Engelland (5) checks Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) during third period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><pWinnipeg Jets' Toby Enstrom (39) takes Vegas Golden Knights' Cody Eakin (21) out of the play in front of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) during third period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><pVegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant disputes the referees' decision on a Winnipeg Jets' challenged goal during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><pVegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) keeps his eye on the puck as Nate Schmidt (88) and Luca Sbisa (47) defend against Winnipeg Jets' Bryan Little (18) and Mathieu Perreault (85) during third period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><pWinnipeg Jets' Dustin Byfuglien (33) attempts the wraparound on Vegas Golden Knights� Deryk Engelland (5) and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during third period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><pWinnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice talks to his team during third period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>
Winnipeg Jets' fans taunt Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Nikolaj Ehlers (27), Mark Scheifele (55), Dustin Byfuglien (33) and Patrik Laine (29) celebrate Byfuglien's goal against the Vegas Golden Knights during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Vegas Golden Knights' goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) knocks the puck away from Winnipeg Jets' Andrew Copp (9) as Knights' Luca Sbisa (47) defends during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) beats Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) but misses the open net during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Paul Stastny (25) celebrates Mark Scheifele's (not shown) goal on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) as Nate Schmidt (88) defends during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine (29), Blake Wheeler (26), Mark Scheifele (55) and Paul Stastny (25) celebrate Laine's goal against the Vegas Golden Knights during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Vegas Golden Knights celebrate William Karlsson's (71) goal against the Winnipeg Jets during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

- (CP)
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) gets dumped over the Vegas boards by Vegas Golden KnightsÕ Ryan Reaves (75) during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler (26) gets dumped over the Vegas boards by Vegas Golden Knights' Ryan Reaves (75) in front of Cody Eakin (21), Oscar Lindberg (24) and Jonathan Marchessault (81) during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

- (CP)
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant disputes the referees' decision on a Winnipeg Jets' challenged goal during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

- (CP)
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' fans taunt Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Ben Chiarot (7), Joel Armia (40) and Tyler Myers (57) celebrate after Armia's goal against the Vegas Golden Knights was challenged and judged good during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

- (CP)
JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Adam Lowry (17) checks Vegas Golden Knights' Colin Miller (6) during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) saves the Winnipeg Jets' shot during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Kyle Connor (81) shot goes through the pads of Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) but Brayden McNabb (3) clears it during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine (29) celebrates his goal on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Patrik Laine (not shown) scores on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) as Jets' Paul Stastny and Golden Knights' Deryk Engelland look on during first period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) reacts after scoring against the Vegas Golden Knights during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Why bother with a gentle ascent when a stunning, near-vertical zoom off the runway continues to work so well?

Using a steep climb and some dizzying early manoeuvres, the Winnipeg Jets’ takeoff in the Western Conference Final was lightning-fast and accurate Saturday night.

A three-goal explosion in the first 7:35 propelled the Jets to a 4-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the best-of-seven playoff series at Bell MTS Place.

Once again, defenceman Dustin Byfuglien provided some early thrust. His laser-beam slap shot beat goalie Marc-André Fleury just 65 seconds after puck drop, and the hosts quickly added two more.

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Why bother with a gentle ascent when a stunning, near-vertical zoom off the runway continues to work so well?

Using a steep climb and some dizzying early manoeuvres, the Winnipeg Jets’ takeoff in the Western Conference Final was lightning-fast and accurate Saturday night.

A three-goal explosion in the first 7:35 propelled the Jets to a 4-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the best-of-seven playoff series at Bell MTS Place.

Once again, defenceman Dustin Byfuglien provided some early thrust. His laser-beam slap shot beat goalie Marc-André Fleury just 65 seconds after puck drop, and the hosts quickly added two more.

Fall behind against the Jets and you had better have a parachute strapped to your back and a finger on the ejection-seat trigger. Winnipeg is 8-1 in the playoffs when the Jets score first.

"Yeah, that was huge for us. Early in the game, too, and then all of the sudden, it gave life to everyone, everyone on the bench, the crowd, (but) more the players, it makes us a little looser," centre Paul Stastny said. "The first game of a new round, I think everyone wants to get that first shift out of the way. But then all of the sudden you have the lead and you can relax a little bit and play your game."

Patrik Laine hammered home a power-play goal, while Joel Armia was credited with a goal after a puck bounced in off his skate to produce a 3-0 bulge. The goal was waved off initially because of goaltender interference, but that call was overturned on a video challenge by the Jets.

Mark Scheifele scored his 12th on a deflection with Vegas a man short midway through the second period and owns the NHL goal-scoring lead. He’s two ahead of Jake Guentzel of the recently eliminated Pittsburgh Penguins and three up on Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, currently up 1-0 on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

Sidney Crosby had 15 goals in 2009 — most by any player in the new millennium — when he won his first Stanley Cup with the Penguins.

At this rate, Scheifele might get there before the series shifts to Sin City.

Former Philadelphia Flyers sniper Reggie Leach, the "Riverton Rifle" (1976) and Jari Kurri of the Edmonton Oilers (1985) co-hold the league record with 19 playoff goals.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Jets captain Blake Wheeler beats Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-André Fleury, but his shot misses the open net during Saturday’s game in Winnipeg. No matter — the Jets got four goals in a Game 1 victory.</p></p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Jets captain Blake Wheeler beats Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-André Fleury, but his shot misses the open net during Saturday’s game in Winnipeg. No matter — the Jets got four goals in a Game 1 victory.

Brayden McNabb and William Karlsson replied for the Golden Knights, who trailed 3-1 and 4-2 at the intermissions.

"We always play the same way... sometimes it’s so high from the emotions of that Game 7 (in Nashville) and coming into Game 1, feeding off the crowd. We had a great start," forward Mathieu Perreault said. "We get the lead and it seems like we’ve been able to play really well with (it). That first goal is huge and, hopefully, we can do that in the second game, too."

Winnipeg had dropped two straight at home to the Predators after winning the previous 13 at the boisterous downtown rink.

The Jets host Game 2 on Monday at 7 p.m., then the series flips to Vegas for games 3 and 4, Wednesday (8 p.m.) and Friday (7 p.m.) at T-Mobile Arena.

"We want to win every game, and now, we’re one win closer," Laine said. "We know the next one is going to be hard. It keeps getting harder and harder. It was nice to get the first one out of the way and just focus on the second one."

Vegas hadn’t played since last Sunday after dispensing with the San Jose Sharks, while Winnipeg returned to action just 48 hours after wrapping up its gruelling but wildly entertaining seven-game series Thursday night in Nashville with a 5-1 triumph.

Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice used his entire bench to get everyone involved and combat any lingering concerns about fatigue, after the thrilling Game 7 win in Music City.

"We had a potential advantage and a potential disadvantage (Saturday). The advantage would be that we’re coming right off a very intense series, so our starting point would probably be there. The disadvantage was that it was seven games and there was some travel involved, so you don’t know about your ability to sustain that through 60 (minutes) in the first one back," Maurice said. "We had enough players, we had everybody going, for the most part. We were real solid with the start, so that changes the way I get to run the bench.

"Having the lead, you’re comfortable with your four lines, you’re not chasing the game where you have to cut down. So, the start was very important. We did take advantage of being game-ready off our last series and we weren’t put in a position because we had the lead that I had to shorten the bench, where the stacking of the games would become a problem."

There was definitely some rust build-up on the Golden Knights’ armour after a five-day rest.

"Not the start we wanted and they just played two days ago, but they were game ready and we weren’t," Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault said. "We’re going to see what kind of team we are. (Monday) is definitely a must-win game... everyone needs to step up if you want to win against the best team in the league.

"Their push was good, but we knew they were going to come. We didn’t get as many shots on goal as we wanted, but most of that is because of the first period. We were better in the second and third, but they played real well with the lead and that was hard for us."

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Winnipeg Jets' Adam Lowry (17) checks Vegas Golden Knights' Colin Miller (6) during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.</p>

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Winnipeg Jets' Adam Lowry (17) checks Vegas Golden Knights' Colin Miller (6) during second period of game one action in the NHL Western Conference Final in Winnipeg on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

Full marks go to Winnipeg for clamping down in the third period. Vegas mustered just three shots through 17 minutes before testing Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck five more times before the buzzer.

"We knew their team speed is pretty intimidating, so the key with that is you want to limit their time and space, allow our defencemen to have tight gaps," captain Blake Wheeler said. "To do that, our forwards need to get back and get over the puck. That was an emphasis for us."

The Jets were also at their shot-blocking best, preventing 22 pucks from getting to the cage. That’s three more than Vegas was able to get on Hellebuyck. Josh Morrissey and his defensive partner, Jacob Trouba, each had four blocks.

"They’re incredible," Hellebuyck said, heaping praise on those who sacrificed. "They’ve been good all year long. Their details are fantastic and they’re really paying the price. They want this."

Byfuglien’s quick strike was the result of a terrific play from the Jets’ top forward producers. Hanging back, Wheeler broke up a three-on-two and moved the puck up to Scheifele, who put a drop pass on a tee for the hulking blue-liner.

On the next tally, Wheeler slid a cross-ice pass to Laine, who ripped his fourth of the playoffs with the hosts on the power play.

Wheeler got his third assist of the night on Scheifele’s goal and now has a playoff-leading 15 helpers this spring.

Vegas coach Gerard Gallant pencilled Winnipegger Ryan Reaves into the lineup — for just the second time in the playoffs — for one reason only, to initiate disturbances. And it was a job well done in the first period.

He absolutely levelled Wheeler with a perfect check, knocking the Jets captain flying over the boards and into the Vegas bench. He also dished out a heavy hit on Byfuglien, and the two giants on skates exchanged a few forceful shoves and face-washes that left both grinning as they headed off the ice for the first intermission.

Inside the rink were more than 15,000 white-clad fans, while about 25,000 more partied outside.

"It’s incredible. Did you enjoy yourself? It was awesome. Our crowd is awesome," Hellebuyck said.

"They were so loud and they helped us carry so much momentum. They are a big factor in this."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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